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1634: The Galileo Affair: Chapter Seven

       Last updated: Saturday, December 13, 2003 00:03 EST



    Frank Stone had every nerve, every fragment of concentration on the ball, the wide-open goal, Klaus off his goal-line and with the evening sun in his eyes—

    --and so he never saw Aidan pounding in from his left to slide in for the ball in a spray of turf and distinctly seventeenth-century English.

    Frank’s cry of alarm was part scream, part roar, part a word that would have gotten him a real old-fashioned look from Magda. His new German stepmom had learned about some parts of modern English with surprising speed.

    He kept his feet, just barely. The ball went out of play in a low, curving loop, just as the whistle blew for full time. “Damn,” said Frank. And, with more feeling, “Damn!”

    Away on the other side of the eighteen-yard box, Heinrich jogged to a halt. His expression said it all. Had Frank managed to cross the ball, Klaus’ sloppy goalkeeping had left the net wide open for the winner to go in: as it was, the game had finished three-all. Freda, back at the other end of the pitch, wasn’t much better than Klaus—she got focused on the main attack and a good cross or diagonal through ball could easily leave her off her line and the net wide open for a sneaky striker to score.

    Part of the problem, Frank decided, as he heaved air back into his lungs, was that most of the sports-minded Germans seemed to have taken up baseball. That just plain wasn’t fair. True, the up-timers had fixed on baseball as a strong reminder of home. On the other hand, they had been dropped back in time into the nation that had produced Beckenbauer and Klinsman and...

    Frank decided wishing soccer was more popular wasn’t going to get him to the showers any quicker. He staggered over to where Aidan was flat on his back in the penalty box, and leaned down to help him up.

    Aidan was just about everything Frank wasn’t. Frank was an up-time American, raised on a hippie commune dedicated to peace, egalitarianism and really, really good weed. Aidan Southworth was a seventeenth-century Catholic English mercenary, formerly of the Spanish army in Flanders. He’d been taken prisoner at the Wartburg the year before, elected to stay in Grantville and was now back at school to “get his letters.” Aidan had decided to try to make a military career in the armed forces of the CPE, in the Grantville regiments of which literacy was a requirement to advance beyond the rank of private soldier.

    Aidan had said he knew no other trade and wanted to learn none for the time being. Soldiering was what he knew and he’d stick with it until he had a little put by. Privately, Frank wondered if Aidan knew what he was letting himself in for. From Aidan’s accounts of drinking, fornicating and fighting his way across Europe since going to war alongside his father as a twelve-year-old drummer boy, he was likely to find life in the CPE’s increasingly-professional armed forces a mite boring.

    “Th’art quick, Frank,” said Aidan, as he got to his feet, “but not quick enough, eh?”

    Aidan’s English had been all but incomprehensible when he’d first arrived at school. He’d been from Lancashire, where apparently the English were mostly still Catholic, and had never bothered to learn the more comprehensible speech of the south of England, and simply got by in Spanish and Dutch instead. He’d picked up American English fairly quickly, though.

    “Aidan, I’m quick enough not to get cropped by a dirty fouling English bastard like you.”

    Aidan laughed. “That’d be dirty, fouling, literate English bastard, thank ye kindly.”

    “Cool!” Frank grinned. “You passed, then?”

    Aidan grinned back. “That I did. I learned on’t this day, and shall have my ticket for it directly.”

    “Great!” Frank realized his own feelings were a bit mixed on the subject. On the one hand, he’d rather looked forward to a spell in the army—he’d been just that bit too young for the fighting the year before. On the other hand, reforms had just been announced to the effect that the army was going all-volunteer and more professional. Frank Jackson’s take on military punctilio—which was largely that it was horse manure that he couldn’t be bothered with—was going out of the window. There were already uniforms and drill starting to appear around town, and the U.S. Marine Horse were looking decidedly smart lately.

    Frank wasn’t sure he wanted any part of that kind of thing. Even if he’d be allowed to join the military at all, for that matter. Frank served as his father’s chief assistant and bottlewasher in the pharmaceutical end of his business—with his brothers Ron and Gerry being respectively the second and third assistants—and Frank knew that the powers-that-he considered him far more useful in that capacity than as another spear-carrier. He fell into the category of “critical industrial worker.” The one time he’d raised the matter with Frank Jackson, the head of the army had quietly told him he’d be a lot happier if Frank kept working to save ten sick or wounded U.S. servicemen than signing up to maybe kill one French or Spanish soldier.

    “Wouldst have a beer with me?” Aidan asked. “In celebration?”

    “Oh, sure. We’ll get Gerry as well, and Ron if he’s not busy.” That was something neither Frank nor his two younger brothers had any trouble with. Up-time and down-time attitudes to drinking had met somewhere in the middle, though probably a bit nearer the seventeenth-century side of the issue. The down-timers in Grantville had gotten used to water that was relatively safe to drink, and the up-timers had gotten used to beer that was worth drinking for its flavor.

    “Uh, I’d better check in with home first, though.” Frank and his brothers Gerry and Ron had come home the best part of paralytic one night, and their father had gotten the nearest he ever did to angry. The sons all thought Tom Stone’s attitude was decidedly irrational. Not to mention unfair. He’d spent a lot of his twenties in alternative states of mind, after all. But now he regarded getting anything more than a little buzzed as a serious personal failing. Tom had pulled his usual sneaky parental trick of relying on his sons’ senses of personal honor and responsibility, and Frank felt he had to check in now when he was going for a beer.

    “Okay,” said Aidan, “Telephone after we get out of the shower, yes?”



    The telephone rang and rang. “Come on, Dad,” Frank muttered.

    “No answer?” Frank heard the English accent behind him, and turned around. Aidan was out of the shower, and dressed up for the evening. Frank was briefly thankful that his dad’s dyeing business brought a lot of samples and spare swatches of cloth, so lately the whole family was very well dressed—except his dad, whose fashion sense had run aground somewhere around 1973.

    “No, not yet--” he said, but then his stepmother’s voice came on the other end of the line.

    “Lothlorien Farbewerk,” she said.

    Frank still found his stepmom’s telephone manner funny. Magda might have been married to Dad for well over a year and part of an up-time equipped household for a little longer, but for some reason she still retained a slight awe of the telephone. Television she had no trouble with, and the washing machine and vacuum cleaner she regarded as God’s fitting apology to womankind for inflicting untidy males on the world, but telephones still left her slightly nervous.

    “Magda?” Frank found it best to give her something simple to settle into the conversation with. He knew she would have hesitated while the phone rang, looking to see if someone was around to answer it instead.

    “Ja, hier,” she said. “Is that you, Faramir?”

    Frank winced. Cringed, in fact. The big, big downside to a hippie upbringing, the thing that completely made up for the freedom other kids didn’t get, was the wanton cruelty with which the flower-children had named their own kids. He was, by his paperwork, Faramir Stone. And his brothers—the relationship wasn’t quite that clear-cut but his brothers they were—had the names Gwaihir and Elrond to live down. Any one of them would sooner have been called Sue. Every record bar their birth certificates—Dad had had this much decency—recorded them as Frank, Gerry and Ron. Magda, German right the way down, insisted on using the names with which their birth certificates had been gestempelt.

    On the plus side, there were a lot of folks in Grantville these days with more exotic names, and apart from the few who’d bothered to look Tolkien up they were just three more foreign-sounding names out of hundreds.

    Of course, in Thuringia, Frank, Gerry and Ron could be said to sound foreign anyway.



    “Yes, Magda, it’s me. Frank. I’m calling to check if it’s okay if I—and Gerry and Ron if I can find them—go for a dinner and a few beers at the Gardens? Aidan is celebrating finishing summer school.”

    “Aidan?” Magda was an artist in the kitchen and Dad had high praise for her as a business manager—her own father had taught her to keep books—but she sometimes had trouble matching faces to names before the sixth or seventh meeting.

    “Sergeant Southworth.” Frank braced himself.

    “Ah.” There was a freight of meaning in that syllable.

    Frank held his breath. The general attitude toward soldiers among the Germans was not good. The professionalization of the US Army—even Frank Jackson’s loose attitudes were practically Prussian by local standards—was helping, but few people had shaken off the attitudes of a life during wartime and Magda was no exception. Frank could also see her trying to place Aidan’s face among the small army of lifters and shifters that the Lothlorian commune had employed. A lot of summer-school students had supplemented their money by doing a few hours a week casual work at the new dye plant.

    “Your father should speak of this,” she said at last, “but he is out. With the President, and Doctor Nichols.”

    Frank could practically smell the snobbery coming out of the telephone, and saw his chance. Magda was still smitten with Dad—and rightly so—but she visibly wanted him to act more like the captain of industry he was well on the way to becoming. Hobnobbing with the President was about the speed she wanted him at. “Well,” said Frank, “if Dad’s with the president, we don’t want to distract him because Gerry and Ron and me are going for a beer at the Gardens with Aidan. Can you tell him when he gets home?”

    Silence at the other end of the phone. Then: “Just so. Don’t be late, and be respectable, yes?”

    “Sure, Magda. And thanks.” He put the phone down after saying goodbye with the definite feeling she was no more fooled than anyone had been the last time a couple of Dan Frost’s boys had brought all three of them home from where they had “just been tired” on a bench half-way between the Gardens and home. On the other hand, Magda hadn’t minded so much. They hadn’t been fighting, and as far as she was concerned overdoing it and having to be helped home was something boys did from time to time.

    “A’reet?” Aidan was waiting.

    “Sure. C’mon, we’ll see if we can find Gerry and Ron before we head back to town. I figure we earned them beers.”

    Aidan grinned. “I’ve scrip and reason to spend it,” he said, and held up a wad of the new funny-looking dollar bills. Frank found them a bit embarrassing, frankly, what with the hand his dad had had in the design.

    It was another of those oddities—weirdities, Frank thought of them—that the Ring of Fire had produced in the world, in the Year of Our Lord 1633 in Universe Whichever. With the influx of American technology and the political stability provided by the army of the new U.S., Thuringia had quickly become the strongest economic province in war-ravaged Germany. That meant the U.S. dollar was also the strongest currency in Gustav Adolf’s ramshackle Confederated Principalities of Europe.

    On the other hand, given that “George Washington” and “Abe Lincoln” meant nothing at all to ninety-nine percent of the population of the CPE, Mike Stearns had decreed that new designs were needed for the various dollar bills. And, since Frank’s father Tom was the only manufacturer of a waterproof green ink in the world, he’d more or less been able to finagle his designs onto an unsuspecting universe.

    Frank could live with an eight-point buck as the central symbol on the one-dollar bill, hands kneading dough for a five-dollar bill and a load of bread for a ten-dollar bill, even if he thought the puns were pretty outrageous. But, even for his dad, putting Johnny Cash on the twenty-dollar bill was going over the edge.



    Some people joked that the Thuringen Gardens ought to have been the location of the new Grantville mint. Since the place seemed to have a license to print money, they said, they might as well actually do it there and save on freight.

    It was not that there was any shortage of places in Grantville for the hungry—and thirsty—to seek refreshment and unwind. There were places with fancier food, finer drink, and all manner of other selling points.

    The Gardens, though, had been there first with the mix of up-and-down time comforts and customs, and had become something of an Official Institution in Grantville. In fact, from what anyone could tell it had become famous all over Germany. Now that central Germany had been politically stabilized—by seventeenth-century standards, anyway—and the armies which had ravaged it driven off, Grantville was not only a boom town but the central tourist attraction for anyone in Europe with the money and leisure time to afford to come there. And each and every one of those visitors sooner or later made a beeline for the Gardens.

    The management of the Gardens had cheerfully—and haphazardly—kept expanding the establishment to match the clientele, to the despair of Grantville’s more snooty citizens and the sheer outrage of anyone with any sense of proper architectural design. It had become a sprawling giant of a “building,” growing up as well as out.

    But, like most people, Frank didn’t care. If the owners were cavalier about the design of the establishment, they were quite careful to stay within Grantville’s building code when it came to what mattered. And, whatever else it was—usually overcrowded, loud, smoky and hot—the Gardens was almost always a good-humored and cheerful place. Even the inevitable and constant disputes over theology and politics always seemed to be friendlier in the Gardens than anywhere else.

    Granted, that wasn’t perhaps saying much, looked at from one angle. A “moderate dispute” in the seventeenth century would have been classed as a “brawl” in up-time America. But at least, in the Gardens, people settled their disputes with fisticuffs instead of sabers, stones and the gibbet.

    Frank pushed open the door and the noise and smoke hit him like a wall. The main bar-and-dining room was colorful and busy. Especially colorful, now that the bright hues that Lothlorien was turning out were making inroads into the brown and tan and goose-turd green of mass-market fabric. It looked like a good night in the Gardens, and it was a pity they hadn’t found Gerry and Ron. Frank called over his shoulder: “Get the beers in, Aidan, I’ll find us a table.”

    It was usually as well to get a round from the bar, since the service sometimes got a little slow of a Saturday night. As Frank wandered in, though, he saw that the room wasn’t quite as full as it had looked. There were still some tables at the back. People hadn’t wanted to get too close to any of the fireplaces, where the fires were still roaring with fresh wood. Later in the evening, when the crowd had throttled back to the die-hards, they would cluster around the softer embers.

    “Frank?” Somehow the voice cut through the hubbub and the tunings of the evening’s pickup band. That was all the more impressive because of the mellow and relaxed tone.

    Damn. Frank looked around for his dad, panicking slightly before he realized no, it’s cool, I told Magda.

    He spotted his father’s table and headed for it, none too eagerly. Tom “Stoner” Stone was Grantville’s leading ageing hippie, general good guy, pharmacologist, recreational horticulturist and lately owner and CEO of the Lothlorien Farbewerk, the Lothlorian Commune as once was. And, on account of being the aforementioned hippie, almost impossible to generation-gap.

    “Dad, hi, what’s up, what’re you—” Frank dried up. Around the table were Mike Stearns, Balthazar Abrabanel, Doctor James Nichols, Don Francisco Nasi, Frank Jackson, Father Mazzare, the Reverend Jones and—Frank’s attempt at calm assurance turned to cold gray slop in his guts—Mister Piazza. Now the Secretary of State, but—more to the point—the former principal of Frank’s high school.

    “Probably the same thing you are, Frank,” his dad said. “Did you tell Magda you were coming? Are Gerry and Ron here with you?” There was no note of accusation in his dad’s voice, just concern that proper procedure had been followed. He used the same tone of voice to run down the checklist when his sons helped in the lab or the greenhouse, confirming that the sensible things had been done and useful lessons learned.

    It would be easier, Frank sometimes thought, if his father was dumber or meaner or a hypocrite or something. What in a lot of hippies—and Frank had met more of the breed than most guys his age—was a lot of new-age hypocritical crap was, in his dad, the genuine article. Tom Stone was reasonable, gentle and good, most of the time, and when he wasn’t, he was trying to be. And, unfortunately, he had a fine mind when he felt like using it. He was not impossible to fool, but it wasn’t easy.

    In short, as a father for sprightly teenage lads, a first-class pain in the ass.



    “Sure, Dad. She said you were, uh, with Mister Stearns here. Uh, Mister President, I mean.”

    Mister President grinned. “You figured the Gardens was safe, then?”

    “Um...” Frank didn’t feel much like talking. Technically he was an adult, now that he was nineteen, but the presence of so many authority figures affected him like so many alarms replete with red lights and sirens. He was not only tongue-tied, he found he was wanting to look down to check he was wearing trousers, and that his zipper was up. He definitely didn’t like the way Mister Piazza was grinning. If there was a bright side, he supposed, it was that Miz Mailey—air-raid sirens and maroon flares, here—was in another country. And locked in jail, besides. The Tower of London, no less.

    Frank Jackson broke the silence. “Siddown, son. Your dad was saying earlier as how this might concern you, and if you followed proper reporting procedure you’ve every right to be here. You bring friends?”

    “Ah, yes, mister, I mean General—I, that is, my friend Aidan was celebrating graduating and we figured dinner and a few beers--”

    “Excellent, good thinking,” beamed Doctor Nichols. “Had the same idea myself every time I passed something, when I took to getting edumacated. Join us, do—is this Aidan friend of yours at the bar?”

    “Don’t tease the young man, now.” That was Father Mazzare, who had always seemed a slightly odd and exotic figure to Frank. “Do, please, join us. As the general says, your father thought it might be good for you and your brothers to come along.”

    Frank looked around, saw Aidan carefully working his way between tight-packed tables under the weight of four steins of beer. Sigh; leave it to Aidan. Frank caught Aidan’s eye to be certain Aidan knew where to head for and sat down. He took a deep breath. “Come along where, Father Mazzare? Dad?” Frank looked from one to the other, trying for an effect of slightly intrigued rather than baffled and terrified.

    “Venice,” said Mister President.

    “Venice? Cool—but why me? Uh, I mean us? And what about the pharmaceutical work?”

    “Mike asked me to go along as the scientific and medical attaché and I agreed,” his dad explained. “I could really use your help down there—same with Ron and Gerry—getting a pharmaceutical industry off the ground in Italy. The truth is, that work’s gotten pretty routine here. You’ve already trained enough people to replace you and your brothers.”

    Nasi nodded. “And a grand tour is a vital part of every young man’s education, Señor Stone. I spent some months in Venice myself, at your age. I have a cousin there who is a factor for Messer Mocenigo.”

    “I wasn’t quite so lucky,” Doctor Nichols chuckled. “When I was your age, Frank, the educational choice I was given was either a hitch in the Marines or considerable time—never mind how much—in one of those downstate establishments that really don’t look too good on a job resumé.” The doctor raised his beer-stein in ironic toast to Don Francisco’s cultured upbringing.

    Aidan picked that moment to arrive and set down the beers. “Mister Stone, Doctor Nichols, good e’en to ye. Father Mazzare, good evening.” Aidan looked at Frank for introductions.

    Ah, thought Frank. Aidan’s exhausted everyone he knows by sight. Now for the fun part. “Aidan,” he said, taking a beer from in front of his friend. Then he thought a moment, and moved a second one over. This could get—explosive. “I don’t believe you know Doctor Abrabanel, Don Nasi, Mister Piazza, General Jackson and—” Frank completed the round of beer-stein gestures—”Mister President Stearns of the United States.”

    Aidan’s face must have been a treat. To his credit, the Englishman didn’t spray beer or choke. Whatever he did, though, made Doctors Abrabanel and Nichols suddenly look very professional. Frank’s dad grinned, Mike Stearns smiled and Father Mazzare shot Frank a sharp look.

    Mister Piazza snorted, briefly, but without cracking his face. Frank Stone found that oddly satisfying, that all his student pranks hadn’t been wasted in keeping the old guy interested in his work back when he’d been a principal.

    “So, young feller, I wouldn’t wait on your friend to introduce you prop’ly,” said Jackson. “And we don’t care much about fancy manners anyhow. Pleased to meet you, Aidan, and what are you going to do now you’re quittin’ school?”

    Aidan leapt to his feet. “Sah! Private Atkins, Sah!” he bellowed, and came to quivering attention with a salute that practically echoed off the walls.

    “I will get you for this,” muttered Frank under his breath, although he doubted Aidan heard him.

    “At ease, private,” said Jackson. “Aw, hell, siddown, son. I think you got your own back, there.”

    Aidan sat down. “Much obliged, General, Sir.”

    “You been a soldier before?” asked Jackson, squinting suddenly in half-recognition.

    “Sir, I was a private soldier after I got out of prison for a while, sir. I was a sergeant in Colonel Stanley’s Regiment in the Army of Flanders, sir. I took a leave of absence to get my letters again at summer school, sir.” Aidan picked up his beer and took a drink. It had been quite a long speech for the usually-laconic soldier.

    Frank seethed slightly. A moment of surprise was all he’d managed to inflict, damn it. He’d hoped to see Aidan in the grip of that no-trousers feeling, but then a man who had had to take cover from napalm in the line of duty was probably a little harder to faze than most.

    “Ah,” said Jackson. “Frank said you’d graduated something—you’re looking to be a corporal?”

    “Sir, yes, sir. As I said, Sir, I was a sergeant with the Spani—” Aidan paused a moment, apparently realizing who he was addressing.

    Stearns waved Aidan’s concern aside. “Don’t worry, son. Lots of folks in this town spent time, uh, elsewhere. It’s where you are now that counts.”

    “Even some Americans,” said Jackson, “weren’t on the right side to begin with.” He exchanged a look with Stearns that Frank couldn’t read. “So, Private Southworth, how have you done with the rest of your training?”

    Aidan shifted on his seat. At last, Frank thought, he’s having the good grace to be embarrassed. “Sir, I needed but the ticket of having my letters and I shall be fit to be a corporal of horse, sir, and to be an officer some day.”

    “You go, son,” said Doctor Nichols, and the others around the table murmured assent, lifted their glasses or just nodded approvingly.

    Mister Piazza beamed particularly widely. “Our adult literacy program,” he said. “Most folks hereabouts can read, but a fair few need a refresher or to read something that isn’t the Bible. Quite the success, and the best spend of a taxpayer dollar I have seen in some time. Actually, half the battle is teaching folks to read our script.”

    “Eh?” Frank frowned, trying to pick out the right mental image.

    “Fraktur,” Mister Piazza said, “Gothic script. If you grew up reading it, you need to learn any different alphabet you want to use all over again. We’re doing classes for up-timers to learn the other way around, of course, but Roman script is catching on here in Germany the way it did in our time-line.”

    “Ah,” Frank nodded. He’d known that, actually.

    “Venice,” his dad said. “We were talking about Venice. Father Mazzare is going to be our ambassador to the Most Serene Republic of Venice.”

    “What?” said Frank, and realized immediately how that sounded. “I mean, cool, but that’s not your scene, is it? Your thing is chemistry, and growing stuff—”

    Dad was grinning, as was—no, in fact, all of the adults were grinning. Adults. He was an adult, damn it. Legally, at least. It was just hard to think that way with your high-school principal across the table.

    “Oh, such confidence you have in me. I am so stoked.” Even being sarcastic, Frank’s dad sounded gentle and reasonable. It wasn’t fair. “Frank, I told you—I am of-fi-cially the medical and scientific attaché.” Tom Stone tucked his thumbs in the armholes of his vest, puffed out his chest and sat up straight in mock pride. “The Venetians asked us to send them some medical advisers. Which they certainly need. As you may remember—or maybe not, if you weren’t paying attention—Venice just got hit by a terrible plague a couple of years ago.”

    “Ah.” Frank wondered when he would get to either say something meaningful or just get the hell out of there. Beside him, he realized, Aidan might be feigning cool but his spine was creaking with the effort of sitting at attention without looking like he was doing so.

    “So,” his dad said, “do you want to come? We’ll be there maybe a year. I thought we’d all go, Magda and your brothers. The basic processes are working at the factory, now, and Magda’s dad can run the business side for the time being. Better than I can, to be truthful.”

    Frank nodded. “Cool. Uh, that is, that would be just fine, dad.”

    “Great.” His father grinned brightly. “Maybe you and Aidan want to go find another spot? If you’re uncomfortable around authority figures and all? From here on in it’s shipbuilding, drains and commercial links, I’m afraid.”

    Frank and Aidan got while the getting was good.

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