Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

In The Navy: Section One

       Last updated: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 03:32 EDT



    "I'm telling you, Mike, we can do this!"

    Mike Stearns inhaled deeply, counted to ten—no, better make it twenty—and reminded himself that the President of the United States couldn't go around throttling over-enthusiastic teenagers. He told himself that rather firmly, then reopened his eyes.

    "Eddie," he asked as patiently as possible, "do you have any idea how many people walk through this office every week—every day, for that matter—with projects that absolutely, positively just have to be done Right This Minute?"

    "But this is different, Mike!" The wiry, red-haired young man on the other side of Mike's desk waved his hands. "This is important!"

    "That's exactly my point, Eddie. They're all important. But important or not, we only have so many up-timers with the sorts of skills to make them work. And this—" Mike thumped a solid, muscular palm on the lovingly executed sketch plan Eddie had laid on his desk between two tall piles of books "—would require skills I doubt any of us have to begin with. Besides, can you even imagine how someone like Quentin Underwood would react if I handed whole miles of railroad track over to you for a 'crackpot scheme' like this?"

    "It's not a 'crackpot scheme'!" Eddie said hotly. "This is exactly how the Confederates built their original ironclads, with rolled railroad rails for armor back during the Civil War."

    "No, it's not," Mike replied patiently. "It's how you think they built them, and that's—"

    "It is how they built them!" Eddie interrupted. "My research is solid, Mike!"

    "If you'll let me finish?" Mike's voice was noticeably cooler, and Eddie blushed with the fiery color only a natural redhead could produce.

    "Sorry," he muttered, and Mike was hard pressed not to chuckle at his expression. Eddie Cantrell, especially in the grip of one of his effervescent enthusiasms, was prone to forget that the Mike Stearns he'd known all his life had become President of the only United States that existed in this Year of Our Lord Sixteen Hundred and Thirty-Two. Which was fair enough, Mike supposed. There'd been enough times over the last year or so that he'd thought he was living in a fever dream instead of reality.

    "As I was saying," he continued after a moment, "I don't have any doubt at all that this plan of yours," he thumped the sketch on his desk again, "represents one hell of a lot of research and hard thinking. But the truth is that you don't have any better idea than I do of what sorts of hardware it would take to build the thing. Or, for that matter, who do you think is going to do the stability calculations? Or figure out its displacement? Or design a steam plant to move a boat this size and weight? Or even have a single clue how to take command of it when it was built?" He shook his head. "Even if we had the resources to devote to something like this, we don't have anyone here in Grantville who has any idea how to build it. And I've got too many other projects that people do have a clue about to justify diverting our limited—very limited, Eddie—resources to building some kind of Civil War navy."

    Eddie looked away, staring out the office window for several seconds. Then he looked back at Mike, and his expression was more serious than any Mike recalled ever having seen from him before.

    "All right," the young man said. "I understand what you're saying. And I guess I do get carried away sometimes. But there was a reason they built these things back home, Mike, and Gustav Adolph is going to need them a hell of a lot worse than Sherman or Grant ever did."

    Mike started a quick reply, then stopped. Just as Eddie had trouble remembering Mike as anything more impressive than the leader of the United Mine Workers local, Mike had trouble thinking of Eddie as anything but one of the local kids. Not quite as geekish as his friend Jeff had been before the Ring of Fire deposited their hometown in seventeenth-century Germany, but still something of an oddball in rural West Virginia. A computer nerd and a wargamer who was passionately devoted to both pastimes.

    Yeah, Mike thought. A geek. But a wargaming geek. He may be short on experience in the real world, but he's spent one hell of a lot more time than I have studying wars and armies and... navies.

    "All right, Eddie," he sighed. "I'm sure I'm going to regret this, but why is 'Captain General Gars' going to need ironclads so badly?"

    "Because he doesn't have railroads," Eddie replied. "That's why rivers and canals are so important to his logistics, Mike. You know that."

    Mike nodded slowly. Eddie was certainly right about that, although the youngster hadn't been present for the meetings at which he and Gustavus Adolphus had discussed that very point.

    "Without railroads," Eddie continued, "the only way to move really large quantities of supplies is by water. That's why successful seventeenth-century military campaigns usually stuck so close to the lines of navigable rivers. I know we're talking about building steamboats and steam-powered tugs for that very reason, and that should help a lot. But the bad guys are just as well aware of how important rivers are as Gustav Adolph is. When they figure out how much more efficiently he's going to be able to use them with our help, they're going to start trying really hard to stop him. And the best way for them to do that is to attack his shipping on the water, or else build forts or redoubts armed with artillery to try and close off the critical rivers." The teenager shrugged. "Either way, seems to me that something like an ironclad would be the best way to... convince them to stay as far away from the river bank as they can get."



    The kid had a point, Mike realized. In fact, he might have an even better one than he realized. The major cities of most of Gustavus Adolphus' so-called 'vassals' and 'allies' also happened to lie on navigable rivers, and altogether too many of those vassals were among the slimiest, most treacherous batch of so-called noblemen in history. Which meant that in a pinch, an armored vessel, heavily armed and immune to said cities' defensive artillery might prove a powerful incentive when it came to honoring their obligations to the Confederated Principalities of Europe and their Emperor.

    None of which changed a single thing where the incredible difficulties of Eddie's proposal were concerned.

    Eddie started to say something else, then closed his mouth with an almost audible click as he realized Mike was gazing frowningly down at the sketch.

    The vessel it depicted would never be called graceful. It was an uncompromising, slab-sided, boxy thing which sat low in the water, and its gun ports and a thick, squat funnel were its only visible external features.

    "You're right about how important river traffic is going to be," Mike admitted as he ran one blunt fingertip across the drawing. "But this thing would be an incredible resource hog."

    "I know that," Eddie acknowledged. "That's why I'm only suggesting building three of them. God knows we could use as many as we could get, but I knew going in that there was no way you were going to give up enough rails to armor more than that."

    "No way in the world," Mike agreed with a grin which held very little humor. "Quentin would scream bloody murder if I gave you enough rails for one of these things, much less three! And he wouldn't be alone, either. It's going to take years and years for us to develop an iron industry that can produce steel that good. But that part I could handle... if I thought we'd be able to build the damned things in the end."

    "Look," Eddie said, "I admit that a lot of that plan is based on the best guesstimates I could come up with from my reference books. At the same time, some of those books are pretty darned good, Mike. I spent a lot of time researching this period when Jeff and Larry decided we just had to do a Civil War ironclads game." He chuckled. "I always was the navy specialist when it came to game design.

    "But that's not important. What matters is that it's a starting point. If you can find someone else, someone better qualified to take my notes and my reference books and turn them into something we can build, I'll be delighted to turn them over. You're right. I don't have the least idea how to figure displacements or allow for stability requirements, and I know the designers screwed up the displacement calculations big time for a lot of the real ironclads built during the Civil War. There was one class of monitor that would've sunk outright if they'd ever tried to mount their turrets! So maybe my enthusiasm did run away with me. But it's more important that this gets done and that it work than that it gets done my way."

    Mike tipped back in his chair and considered the face across his desk. It was the same face it had always been, and yet, it wasn't. It hadn't changed as much as Jeff Higgins' face had, perhaps, but like every face in Grantville, it had thinned down over the course of the last winter and its sometimes short and always monotonous rations. Eddie had always been wiry; now he'd lost every ounce of excess weight, yet his frame was well muscled from hard physical labor. More to the point, perhaps, that face was no longer as young, as... innocent as it had been, and Mike felt a pang of deep, intense pain for the loss of Eddie's last years of childhood.

    But a lot of people had lost a lot of things, he reminded himself, and it looked as if Eddie was doing a better job of growing into the reality he faced than Mike had realized when he came bursting into the office. His pride in the concept he'd come up with was obvious, yet it was equally obvious that his offer to turn it over to someone else who might be better qualified to make it work was genuine. Unfortunately, there was no one in Grantville who was better qualified. The skills a project like this would call for weren't the sort that were in much demand in a West Virginia coal mining town. To make it work, they would have needed someone with some real expertise in mechanical engineering and heavy fabrication, not to mention running complicated industrial projects. Better yet, someone with some genuine experience with boats and ships. Best of all, someone with some idea about how a real navy worked.

    Someone like—

    Mike's thoughts broke off in a sudden mental hiccup, and he sat abruptly upright.

    "What?" Eddie asked, and Mike shook his head the way he'd shaken off the effect of a particularly good left jab during his days in the ring.

    "I'm still not convinced that any of this is doable," he said slowly, contemplating Eddie through half-slitted eyes. "But if—if, I say—it is, then it's possible that there's someone right here in town who'd be perfect—" He broke off and grimaced. "Let me rephrase that. It's possible that there's someone right here in town who could actually make it work."

    "There is?" Eddie looked puzzled. "Who?"

    "The only person who has any experience at all with this kind of building project," Mike replied, and grinned sourly as Eddie's eyes widened in dawning disbelief.

    "That's right," the President of the United States said in a tone which matched his grin's sourness perfectly. "I think we need to consult with my sister's esteemed father-in-law."




    "Let me get this straight." John Chandler Simpson sat on the other side of a slightly battered-looking table in an Appalachian kitchen and regarded Mike through narrow eyes. "You're offering me a job."

    "I guess you could put it that way," Mike replied in a voice he tried to keep entirely free of any emotion. His years of experience as a union negotiator helped, but it was still difficult. He'd seldom felt as much antipathy for another human being as Simpson evoked, apparently effortlessly, from him.

    He sat back in his own chair, letting his eyes rest on the framed prints which brightened Jessica Wendell's friendly kitchen. He could think of very few settings which would have seemed less appropriate for a meeting with the one-time president and CEO of the Simpson Industrial Group, but at least Jessica's willingness to surrender her kitchen as an impromptu conference room had let him keep this meeting out of the public eye.

    Not that the present confidentiality would help much when Mike's cabinet found out what they were discussing. He shuddered at the thought of how Melissa Mailey, for example, would react when she discovered that her President had been negotiating anything at all with their arch enemy.

    "I must confess," Simpson said after a moment in a poisonously dry tone, "that I find a certain degree of irony in this."

    "I doubt you find it any more ironic than I do," Mike told him levelly.

    "Maybe not, but after the way you turned me into some sort of Antichrist in the elections, I have to admire the sheer gall it must have taken for you to suggest anything of the sort."

    "Gall doesn't come into it," Mike shot back, then shrugged his broad, powerful shoulders. "Look, Simpson, I don't like you very much. And God knows you've made it plain enough that you like me even less. But the simple fact is that there's no one else in Grantville who'd even know where to begin with a project like this one."

    "Well that's certainly a refreshing admission." Simpson's lips twitched in what, in another man, might have been called a ghost of a smile, but there was very little humor in his eyes. "I suppose I should be flattered that you're willing to grant my expertise in any field."

    Mike felt his temper try to flare. He was, by nature, a passionate man, and learning the self-discipline required to control those passions—and his temper—had not come easily to him. But it was a lesson he’d mastered long ago, and although Simpson made it more difficult than most, he wasn't about to forget it now.

    "We can sit here pissing in each other's soup all afternoon, if you like," he said instead, throwing the crudity deliberately into the midst of the conversation. "Or we can deal with the reason I came over. Which would you prefer?"

    Something flickered in Simpson's eyes. For a moment, Mike thought it was the other man's temper. Then he realized it had been something else. A moment of... recognition, perhaps. Or possibly simply an awareness that Mike had no intention of rising to his jibes and giving him the satisfaction of losing his temper.

    "Tell me exactly what you have in mind," the ex-CEO said after only the briefest pause.

    "It's simple enough." Mike leaned forward in his chair, planting his forearms on the table. "Eddie Cantrell came to see me with the initial proposal. He brought along a stack of reference books, and it turns out that he's got an entire stash of other books we never guessed he had. I should've made a point of going over there and going through the Four Musketeers' library myself. Everybody in town's known for years that the four of them were absolutely buggy where military history and war games were concerned."

    He shook his head, eyes momentarily unfocused as he considered the treasure trove he and Frank Jackson had discovered in Eddie and Larry Wild's bookshelves.

    "Anyway," he continued briskly, "Eddie has decided that we need a U.S. Navy, and he set out single-handedly to do something about it. Which is how he came up with this."

    Mike took a sheet of paper from his shirt pocket, unfolded it, and slid it across the table. Simpson's eyes flicked to it in a casual, almost dismissive glance. Then they snapped back, and he smoothed the sketch's creases as he frowned down at it.

    "Cantrell did this?"

    "Yeah. He took a course in drafting over at the high school a couple of years ago. Not," Mike added dryly, "that it really prepared him for a career as a maritime engineer."

    "I'd say that's a bit of an understatement." Simpson's attention was on the figures listed in the data block in the upper left corner of Eddie's sketch, and he seemed momentarily to have forgotten his obvious dislike for the man across the table from him. He studied the numbers for several seconds, then snorted in something very like amusement.

    "This displacement estimate of his has got to be way low," he said. "And even if it weren't, there's no way he's going to get by with a six-foot draft!" He shook his head. "I'd have to do some volume calculations to be certain, but even at his estimated tonnage, this thing is going to draw ten or twelve feet, minimum, and that's too deep for riverine conditions."

    Mike chuckled, and Simpson looked quickly up from the sketch.

    "I said something funny?" he inquired in a voice which had suddenly remembered its frost.

    "No, not really. But you did just demonstrate exactly why I'm sitting here this morning. Do you really think that anyone else in Grantville—or anywhere else in seventeenth-century Europe, for that matter!—could rattle off what you just did?"



    "I suppose not," Simpson said after a moment. "Of course, you realize that it's been the better part of twenty years since I did any hands-on hardware work at all."

    "Maybe so, but at least you did some once upon a time. And didn't your company have a piece of the Navy's shipbuilding program?"

    "Not really. Oh, our electronics division was one of the second-tier contractors on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers' radar systems," Simpson acknowledged. He didn't seem to wonder how it was that Mike had acquired that particular bit of information, and Mike was just as happy he didn't. The breach between John Simpson and his son Tom was a deep and apparently permanent one, and Mike had no intention of admitting that he'd discussed this offer with his brother-in-law at some length before approaching Tom's father.

    "But that whole division was really outside our core petro-chemical business," the elder Simpson continued, "and we didn't have anything to do with the hull or the engineering plant. And I damned sure wasn't handling any of the engineering myself! I don't want there to be any misunderstanding on that. Translating this—" he tapped the sketch lightly "—into anything remotely resembling a practical warship would require skills I haven't used since before I ever left the Navy."

    "There's been a lot of that going around lately," Mike replied without cracking a smile, and Simpson acknowledged the point with a grunt of sour amusement. He looked down at the sketch for several more moments, lips pursed, then returned his gaze to Mike's face.

    "How much authority and support would I have?" he asked.

    "As much as I can give you." Mike shrugged. "I'm going to have problems with my own people if I decide to push this one. Quentin Underwood is going to have three kinds of fits the instant he hears about it, and some of the others aren't going to be far behind. Especially not when they find out how many railroad rails we're going to be asking for! But that's not really the worst of it. What's really going to stick in their craws is the impact this kind of diversion of effort will have on all our other projects."

    "They'd better get used to it," Simpson said, and his dark eyes sharpened as if to impale Mike. "And so had you."

    "What does that mean?" Mike demanded, not quite able to prevent himself from bristling.

    "I may not have the library your young Mr. Cantrell does, 'Mr. President,' but I've been something of a student of military history in my time, myself." Simpson's smile was cold. "Do you know what ultimately brought about the downfall of the Swedish Empire?"

    "Gustav Adolph was killed," Mike replied.

    "Yes, he was. But that wasn't what prevented the Swedes from making their empire stand up. His generals, and especially Torstensson, Baner, and Oxenstierna, had learned their trade well enough to take over from him. What they didn't have was the economy or the manpower to take on the rest of Europe head-on. That was what really devastated Germany during the Thirty Years War. The only way to raise the manpower the Swedes needed, especially when the French turned against them, was to hire what amounted to mercenaries. And then they had to find a way to pay for them."

    He shook his head.

    "Don't misunderstand me. Gustavus Adolphus and Sweden probably went further than anyone else in the seventeenth century in rationalizing their manpower resources and creating a standing army out of their own population. But the problem was that Sweden simply didn't have the population density to sustain armies of the size it needed. Just as it didn't have the tax base to create the revenues armies that size—whether raised out of its own population or by hiring mercenaries—demanded."

    He shrugged.

    "So, ultimately, the only real option Sweden saw was to attempt to make war pay for itself by plundering its enemies and extracting the necessary money in 'contributions' from the populations of the territory it occupied. Unfortunately, it turned out that there was only so much blood in the turnip... and it wasn't enough. Some historians still argue that the Swedish Empire really collapsed only when Charles XII finally lost to Peter the Great, but the fact is that it was ultimately unsustainable simply because it lacked the financial and population bases to support it, especially against the inevitable coalitions of nations with larger populations and deeper pockets. And whatever else we may have changed by arriving here, we haven't changed Sweden's demographics."

    "I'm aware of that."

    In the wrong tone, that sentence could have been dismissive, or a challenge, but it didn't come out that way. In fact, Mike was more than a little surprised by Simpson's analysis. Which, he thought, was probably because the man had shown absolutely no ability or inclination to analyze the social and political realities the transplanted Americans faced with the same acuity.

    "In that case," Simpson said levelly, "it's time that you faced the implications. The military implications."

    Mike started to reply, but Simpson's raised hand stopped him. It wouldn't have, if it had been the arrogant gesture of Management dismissing Labor from consideration. But to Mike's considerable astonishment, it wasn't. It wasn't exactly a gesture of warmth, but it wasn't overtly discourteous or dismissive, either.

    "You've made your policies and political platform abundantly clear," Simpson said. "And you've also made it abundantly clear that you intend to put the platform you ran on into effect. I won't pretend I like that, any more that I'll pretend I... enjoyed the way you campaigned."

    A core of anger glowed in his eyes, but, to his credit, he kept it out of his voice.

    "I'll grant you the strength of your own convictions and your sincerity. I don't agree with you, and I hope to hell your social policies don't turn into a complete and total disaster, but that's a fight I've already lost. And I understand your position on the creation of a general... industrial infrastructure, for want of a better term. It may surprise you to discover that I actually agree with you, to an extent. There's no way the seventeenth century's ramshackle, top-down excuses for nation states could possibly hope to match the sorts of technological innovations we could introduce, any more than the Soviet Union was able to match the U.S.'s tech and industrial base back home. To match us, they'd have to become like us, and we saw back home what happened to the Soviets when they tried to do that."

    Mike gazed at the other man with carefully concealed surprise. He and his cabinet had never made any particular secret of their commitment to spreading innovations as widely as possible, but he and his inner circle had never explicitly made the argument Simpson just had. Partly that was to avoid tipping their hand to any seventeenth-century opponent too stupid to see the sucker punch coming, but another reason was that even some of his own cabinet—like Quentin Underwood—would have had conniption fits if they'd realized just how much of his "secret technological advantages" he was willing to give away to bring it about. And Mike had never expected John Chandler Simpson, of all people, to recognize what he had in mind... or to acknowledge that his strategy made any sort of sense.



    "Unfortunately," Simpson's chair creaked as he leaned back in it and folded his arms, "what happened to the Soviets happened during a cold war. Whatever our proxies might have been doing around the periphery, we weren't locked in a direct, life-or-death battlefield confrontation with them. But that's precisely the position Gustav is in right now, and if Sweden goes down, so do we."

    "I'm aware of that, too," Mike said. "That's why we organized an army under Frank Jackson in the first place." He grimaced. "Not that sending up-timers out to get shot at is the most efficient imaginable use of their knowledge and skills!"

    "Exactly," Simpson said. If possible, the industrialist liked Frank Jackson even less than he liked Mike Stearns, but once again, that seemed to be beside the point to him, and he leaned forward once more, stabbing the tabletop with an emphatic finger. "As a matter of fact, it's the worst possible use of their knowledge and skills. And sending them into the field, even with the advantages we can give them in terms of modern weapons, is inevitably going to lead to casualties. And every casualty we suffer is going to cost us irreplaceable 'knowledge capital.'"

    "Are you suggesting that we refuse to risk any of our people and expect Gustav Adolph to foot the entire bill while we just sit around?" Mike demanded. He couldn't quite believe he was having this discussion in the first place, or, in the second, that it seemed Simpson had a brain, after all. The other man certainly hadn't given any sign of it during the constitutional debate or his campaign for the presidency!

    "Of course we can't do that, either," Simpson replied. "But in the end, it's really going to come down to how effective an army Gustav can raise and maintain in the field."

    "Wait a minute. Wasn't your entire original argument that he doesn't have the money or the population to support a big enough army whatever he does?"

    "Yes, it was. But I didn't say anything about army size just now. What I said was that it came down to the effectiveness of his army. There's a difference between sheer size and combat power. In a way, you've already acknowledged that by using Jackson and his troops to give Gustav a qualitative edge at places like the Wartburg and the Alte Veste. But doing it that way wastes our most precious resource. What we have to do is to make that qualitative edge integral to Gustav's own forces. He's got to get his manpower requirements down, and the only way for him to do that is for us to take up the slack by providing him with superior weapons and the training and techniques to use them properly, so that his men make up in individual effectiveness what they lose in numbers."

    Simpson paused and snorted suddenly with genuine humor, and one of Mike's eyebrows rose questioningly.

    "I was just thinking about the presumptuousness involved in 'teaching' one of the greatest captains of history his trade," the industrialist explained. "But that's exactly what it comes down to, in the end. We've got to give him the tools and show him how to use them in a way which will ease the pressure on his population. Give him smaller armies, with the sort of waterborne logistical support your young Mr. Cantrell is advocating, and the superior weapons to let him defeat larger forces, and he'll have a genuine chance of surviving and holding this empire of his together. But the only way we can do that is to divert however much of our own resources and capabilities it takes to support those smaller armies. What it boils down to, is that we'll have to help him downsize—" his eyes glittered with undisguised amusement as Mike stiffened in automatic resistance to the most hated verb in managerese "—and that will mean an inevitable slowdown in how quickly we'll be able to build up other aspects of our infrastructure."

    Mike started to reply quickly, then stopped himself. Nothing Simpson had just said came as an actual surprise to him. God knew he and his innermost circle had spent enough time grappling with the same problems and the same limiting factors themselves! But no one else, not even – or perhaps, especially – Frank Jackson, had laid out the points Simpson had just made in such implacably logical order.

    And he was right, Mike realized. It was a bitter admission, and only the tiniest edge of its bitterness came from the fact that John Simpson had elicited it. He turned his eyes back to Jessica Wendell's prints, and his lips tightened as he stared at them sightlessly.

    He didn't want Simpson to be right. He didn't want to divert still more precious resources, and skill, and knowledge to the military. What Europe needed was medicines, a textile industry, steam or internal combustion-powered farm equipment. It needed steamships, railroads, oil wells, and telegraphs. It needed widespread electricity, light bulbs, refrigeration, sanitation, sewage plants, and a food canning industry. There were so many things it needed—so many whose mere existence would undermine the aristocracy-dominated excuse for a civilization which was about to turn all of Northern Germany into one huge abattoir.

    But to introduce those things, the up-timers and their seventeenth-century countrymen somehow had to survive long enough. And surviving had its own cold, uncaring imperatives. Imperatives, he told himself with what he knew was an edge of pettiness, perfectly suited to John Simpson Chandler.

    "You're right," he admitted, and heard the reluctance in his own voice as he did so. "We've already been discussing possible weapon upgrades with Gustav and Oxenstierna – more 'building down' to something we can produce in quantity instead of trying to use our own weapons as some sort of magic wand."

    "I'm relieved to hear it," Simpson said. "But it's going to be just as important to show them how to get the most out of whatever we can provide for them."

    "I'm sure it is. Unfortunately, aside from a few youthful enthusiasts like Eddie and his buddies, we're awfully short on people who understand how to do that."

    "I'm not surprised." Simpson drummed on the tabletop for a few moments, and Mike surprised an expression on his face which might almost been one of hesitation. If it was, it vanished quickly, and Simpson looked directly back at him. #

    "For what it's worth," he said, "I really am quite well grounded in military history. It's one of the few hobby interests Tom and I share." An undisguised flash of raw pain flooded through his eyes at the mention of his son's name, but his voice never flinched. "What we really need here is one of those historical re-enactors—somebody who spent his vacations marching around in a Union Army uniform with a Springfield rifle-musket on his shoulder. But I assume we don't have any of those?"

    Mike smiled crookedly. "Sure we do—probably a dozen of them, at least. The first battle of the Civil War was fought at Philippi, not more than an hour's drive from here."

    Simpson brightened visibly.

    "I should have thought of that, but I suppose I simply assumed that the local population was too small to support many of them. I hope you’re making them available to Gustav and his army? Someone with hands-on experience like that with nineteenth-century weapons, tactics, and formation drill would be worth me, Jackson, and Cantrell all rolled into one.”

    “I know,” Mike agreed, but his tone was considerably less enthusiastic than Simpson’s, and he grimaced irritably when the industrialist cocked his head in question.”

    “Our problem is that most of them have skills we need just as badly somewhere else. Down at the power plant, for example, or over at the mine. Dwight Rogers is a perfect example of the problem. He’s been a re-enactor for at least ten or fifteen years, but he’s also the only man in town with actual up-time oil field experience, and that makes him critical to Quentin’s oil project.”

    “I see.” Simpson studied Mike’s expression for several seconds, then shrugged. “I see,” he repeated, “and I understand the problem. But I think you’re going to have to consider this the first example of sacrificing infrastructure to survival. We need those men–need not just their actual skills, but also their ability to sell seventeenth-century professional soldiers on the concept that we can show them how to do their jobs better than they can now. In fact, you ought to have people like that in Magdeburg already, working with the Swedes there as military advisers.”

    “Um.” Mike stared out a window while he chewed that unpalatable argument. It seemed to be Simpson’s day for making him consider things he didn’t want to think about, he reflected. And, once again, Simpson was right.

    Damn it to hell.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image