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1636 The Atlantic Encounter: Chapter Twenty

       Last updated: Monday, July 20, 2020 09:45 EDT

 


 

    On the morning tide, a small ship, perhaps half the size of Challenger, arrived at the dock. Gordon came out on deck, where Pete was watching the proceedings.

    The most important passenger, whose effects and luggage were being unloaded, was a tall, distinguished-looking man past middle age with the hint of a moustache and a bare chin; his manner was imperious, as if he was accustomed to having his orders followed. From time to time he looked up at Challenger; the two brothers looked back. No greetings were exchanged.

    “Who is that, do you suppose?” Pete asked.

    Gordon gestured toward the other ship’s mainmast, which flew a white banner with a pair of pine trees and an Indian, with some indecipherable words coming out of his mouth. There was no Cross of Saint George to be seen.

    “Massachusetts banner,” Gordon said. “This is someone important. My money’s on Thomas Dudley.”

    Though they were likely too far away for his words to carry to the deck of the smaller ship, the man chose just that moment to glance in their direction. Pete gave the man a friendly wave and a big-toothed grin.

    “Howdy,” Pete said.

     


 

    On Gordon’s second journey into Puritan Boston he was not alone, but was at the head of a delegation: Pete and Thomas James, Ingrid Skoglund and her maid, and two members of the crew. They were escorted by Massachusetts soldiers, but it seemed less like a police cordon or a press gang than when he had been taken to see Winthrop the previous day. James had made sure to equip Pete and Gordon with proper hats similar to the one he wore: brushed felt, clashing only slightly with their up-time clothing.

    The street was crowded, since a number of others were walking toward the head of the street that led from the dock. Some of them wore clothing with gold threads — the better sort of folks. Their destination was clearly the same: the meeting house, which had its doors thrown wide.

    Pete elbowed Gordon as they passed the church he’d seen the previous day. The stocks were vacant this time, though they had not been cleaned; the blasphemer sign lay in the dust, unattended.

    “Yeah,” Gordon said. “It won’t be empty for long.”

    As they approached the meeting house, the locals’ attention became focused squarely on the group from Challenger. There were two men in corselets and helmets, muskets in hand, at the doors; a young, stout man in fine clothing stepped between them and into their path.

    “This is a meeting only for the men of the colony,” he said pointedly, staring at Ingrid Skoglund.

    She gave him back a cold stare. That caused murmurs among the crowd — which, Gordon noted, had a number of women in it. He supposed that Ingrid was supposed to cast her eyes downward, but she was having none of it.

    “You can keep out any women you like — from the colony,” Gordon said. “Doctor Skoglund is not a woman of Massachusetts Bay.”

    “That much seems obvious.”

    Before Ingrid could reply, Pete said, “Do you have a name we can call you, big man, or should we just make one up?”

    “My name is Simon Bradstreet,” the man said. “Magistrate and Assistant to the governor. You would be wise to hold your tongue, up-timer, and show respect.”

    “Let me write that one down,” Pete answered. “Look, pal, we –“

    “I do not answer to ‘pal,’ or to ‘big man,'” Bradstreet answered, hands on hips. “What is more, I –“

    “– think we should leave this to Governor Winthrop to decide,” Gordon interrupted. “Master Bradstreet, my brother does not mean to give offense.” Well, he does, but let’s not get into that, he thought. “But Doctor Skoglund is a member of our expedition, and shall be treated as such. You may keep your own customs and traditions, but do not presume to dictate ours. I do not think that this decision should be made peremptorily, or in the street. If the decision lies with another, I beg your indulgence to consult with him. And if it is yours to make, and you turn her away, you turn us all away.”

    The audience had become quiet; even Pete had decided not to insert some comment. Bradstreet stood for several moments, his hands on his hips, his brow furrowed.

    “I will inquire the wisdom of others,” he said at last. “Remain here.”

    He turned and went into the meeting house. Murmuring began again; Gordon got the impression that this Bradstreet fellow was not someone who was accustomed to backing down.

    “This is not auspicious,” Ingrid said quietly. Sofia whispered something to her in Swedish that Gordon didn’t make out. “Yes, I know,” she answered in English. “But we must persevere.”

    “We all go in,” Gordon said. “Or we all go back to Challenger.”

    “Surely your mission has greater weight than defending my position or honor.”

    “This isn’t about your position, much less your honor. It’s about whether we’re going to be treated properly — all of us. You know, we respect your ways, you respect our ways. That sort of thing.”

    “They are armed,” Ingrid said, “and we are not.”

    “Don’t bet on that,” Pete said, smiling.

    She looked at him. “Are you expecting trouble? Isn’t thatâ¦a trifle provocative?”

    “You don’t bring a knife to a gun fight,” Pete said. “And you don’t bring a slow match musket to a pistol fight.” He stretched his shoulders out under the fancy long coat he was wearing — which, Gordon noted, was a little out of keeping with the warm late-spring day.

    “You were expecting –“

    “Happiness and smiles. Rainbows and unicorns. Sweetness and light,” Pete said. “No, ma’am. Not expecting nuthin’â¦but my big bro told me to keep my powder dry. So let’s not make any assumptions, or get the zealots’ knickers in a twist.”

    Ingrid frowned, as if she was trying to untangle the knot of slang Pete had just thrown at her. Gordon wanted very much to slap his brother in the head, but he also couldn’t help but admire his turns of phrase.

    Bradstreet emerged from within the meeting house.

    “You are to be admitted,” he said, looking unhappy about the matter. “All of you. But,” he added, before standing aside, “you will not speak until you are addressed. Is that understood?”

    “Of course,” Gordon said, looking at the others in his group. “After you, Magistrate.”

     


 

    The inside of the building was plain and unadorned, as they expected, and it was filled with people. Other than Ingrid and Sofia, the gathering was exclusively male. From the rear of the hall, where they entered, to the front, every seat in every pew was taken — and there was an upper story with a balcony, also filled with onlookers. At the far end, instead of a lectern, there was a little platform with benches on which a group of people sat facing the audience — stern men, a dozen or more, with Governor John Winthrop in the center. A pair of benches had been provided a little in front of the foremost pew; Bradstreet gestured to them, and then returned to a place on the platform.

    “You indicated that you wished to speak,” Winthrop said. “Unless there be further objection” — he paused and looked about — “we will hear what you have to say.”

    Gordon stood again and walked in front of the platform. He’d thought about what he was going to say, but wasn’t sure how it would come out.

    “King Charles has sold all of his lands in the New World to France. So far, the French have made no effort to enforce their authority here in New England. So far, all they have done is clash with the Danes in the north. But we do not think that situation can last much longer. Unless you are willing to submit to French rule –“

    A little hubbub swept the room. The most frequently muttered imprecation seemed to be papists. Not damned papists, though; these people took the prohibition of blasphemy very seriously.

 



 

    Gordon paused to let it die down, before continuing. “You need to find allies — and find them everywhere you can. My nation is no longer at war with France, but we do not think that state of affairs will last for more than a few years. I am not in position to offer you a military pact at this moment, but the possibility exists for the future and I would ask you to take it under consideration. In the meantime⦔

    He took a deep breath. The rest of what he had to say was not likely to be met with much favor. “In the meantime, I strongly urge you to do all you can to avoid hostilities with the natives. Whether or not there is the possibility of forming an alliance with the tribes –“

    Another little hubbub swept the room. Gorgon couldn’t make out the words but the underlying sentiment was clear enough. This man is a blithering fool was the gist of it.

    But he soldiered on. “You still do not want the natives to become allies of the French — and you can be sure the French will be striving to make them such. There is nothing you can do to prevent the French from offering gifts and blandishments to the tribes, but you can do all in your power to keep the natives from becoming your enemies even before the French begin their machinations.”

    He was tempted to go on, but this was not a receptive audience. The longer he preached to them, the more likely they were to simply dig in their heels. He’d made his points; let them ponder the matter for a while. In any event, he had come to the conclusion that whatever might or might not develop, the Puritans and Pilgrims were clearly going to be the laggards straggling behind — if they ever joined at all.

    So, he sat down. Winthrop was lost in thoughts for several moments, while the audience in the meeting house once again took to conversation. Finally he rapped them to silence once more.

    “We will consider all you have proposed,” he said at last.

    And that was that.

     


 

    After they left and were well away from any unfriendly ears, Pete made his own consideration clear. “What a bunch of useless assholes. Can we get out of here already?”

    “Yes,” said Gordon. “Let’s try the Dutch in New Amsterdam.”

 


 

Brest

Brittany, France

    The port of Brest lay on either side of the river. It was dominated by the extended fortifications and naval wharves that le Cardinal had ordered to be built beginning five years ago.

    On the naval dock, in the shadow of the great tower that Sourdéac had built a generation earlier, the grand-maître de la navigation and his father, the Marquis de Brézé and Marshal of France, looked out across the goulet that separated the harbor from the wider roadstead beyond.

    “The wind is fresh,” Urbain de Maillé-Brézé said. “With up-time navigation you should have a fair sail.”

    “I still feel as ifâ¦what do the up-timers say? I am being played.”

    “Serving the will of His Majesty is not being played, Armand,” the Marquis answered. “This is an important mission.”

    “I am at His Majesty’s service, of course. But I fail to see its importance, Father. Why waste resources and manpower and time on a place so far away?”

    “I think I can answer that,” his father said. He looked away from his son and held his hand over his eyes against the glimmer of the sun on the water.

    “Yes?”

    “You cannot see it, my son. But it is there. Beyond the goulet, beyond the Brest Roadstead, beyond the outer islandsâ¦beyond the ocean — there is the future.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “Have you read up-timer history, Armand? I have, and Cardinal Richelieu certainly has. In the time line from which the up-timers came, the power and the wealth of the world shifted westward to the Western Hemisphere. One of the most powerful and most wealthy places was Virginia. His Eminence recognized the potential, and it is the essential reason why France has acquired those vast territories.”

    “Surely the king of England must have known this as well.”

    “Suffice it to say that the king of England does not impress me as a monarch who takes the long view. He did make use of up-time accounts to act preemptively against those who would act against him in the future — the dissenter Puritans, the radicals in their Parliament, and so forth, who would eventually put him to death — but he completely ignored the value of his North American possessions.”

    “That strikes me as absurd, Father. If these Godforsaken places were destined to be rich, why would he sell all of them for any amount of money? And why sell them to France?”

    “The cardinal, your uncle, can be very persuasive. What is more, I think that King Charles was thinking more about keeping his head attached to his neck than whether he could reap profits from tobacco.”

    “When were his enemies scheduled to commit this regicide?”

    “1649.”

    “More than ten years in the future?” Armand de Maillé-Brézé almost broke out in laughter. “Surely with the other steps he had already taken, his path would not lead to the loss of his life, at least not in that way.”

    “King Charles is obsessive,” Urbain said. “And a fool. What England would have become — it will never be. France will take its place. France will be the greatest country in this century.

    “And, Armand, you will be part of it. Your fleet –“

    “Two ships is not a fleet, Father.”

    “Your ships will carry the banner of France to His Christian Majesty’s new possessions. And there is something else, something you have not been told. There is an up-timer ship, and it is somewhere on the coast of the New World, and it may be carrying up-time technology. It might even already be in Virginia. In addition to imposing His Majesty’s will upon the colonists, you are also to locate this ship and, if at all possible, capture it.”

    “What of the up-timers aboard?”

    “Your uncle would like them to becomeâ¦our guests.”

    “And not drowned in the Ocean Sea, I assume.”

    “It was not specified,” Armand said. “I assume that it would be better for them to survive, but c’est la guerre if they do not.”

 


 

Bamberg, capital of the State of Thuringia-Franconia

United States of Europe

    Ed Piazza sighed and leaned back in his chair. “I suppose there’s no chance⦔

    Estuban Miro shrugged. “There is always ‘a chance,’ Mr. President. Or it might be better to say, there are too many chances. There is the chance that the Challenger was destroyed at sea in a storm; or ran aground; or was ambushed by pirates. There is the chance that the radio simply malfunctioned. Going a bit further afield, there is the chance –“

    Piazza waved his hand in a gesture that was a bit weary. The silence coming from the Atlantic was only one of many problems besetting him at the moment, and not by any means the most pressing. “Never mind. There’s no point in speculating. All we really know is that we’ve heard nothing from Gordon Chehab for weeks — long past the point where he should have been able to report, no matter what the conditions for transmission were.”

    “Yes.”

    “Though he might be able to contact us from the tower in the Caribbean.”

    “Ah. That.” Muro shifted in his seat. “He could . . . if he knew about it. We decided, for reasons of operational security, not to brief Chehab on it.”

    “Because â“”

    “Because, Mr. President, they were equipped with their own radio. There would be no need to travel that far â“ considerably beyond the expected range of their expedition â“ to use another.”

    “Even as a backup?”

    “Even so.”

    There seemed nothing more to say. Or do. Ed could only hope that two more of the few Americans who’d passed through the Ring of Fire into this New World hadn’t been lost, as so many had by now.

    He picked up another of the many pieces of paper on his desk. “Okay, what’s the story with –“


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