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In The Navy: Section Three

       Last updated: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 03:40 EDT



    As a citizen of the seventeenth-century United States, Eddie had become far more accustomed to walking than he'd ever been as a twenty-first-century American. Which turned out to be a good thing as he tagged along behind an obviously indefatigable Simpson, Jere Haygood, and their local guide, Dietrich Schwanhausser.

    Haygood was a weathered-looking man in his mid-forties, with light brown-colored hair and hazel eyes. He wore work clothes and high-topped, laced boots which had undoubtedly been comfortably worn long before the Ring of Fire, and an old Army Single-Action Colt revolver rode in a black ballistic nylon holster at his belt. He was built on the lean and rangy model, and he moved with a quick, boundless energy that made Eddie tired just watching him. Simpson, of course, simply took it all in stride.

    Eddie didn’t know Haygood well – they’d never actually met before the Ring Fire – but it had been obvious from the beginning that the engineer wasn’t a Simpson admirer. He’d been civil enough, but that had been about all anyone could have said for his attitude.

    Schwanhausser, on the other hand, had been another matter entirely. He hadn't lived in Magdeburg before its destruction, but most of his relatives had, and he'd lost them all. Apparently, that was part of what had drawn him to the reemerging city as it arose like a dusty, smoky, chaotic Phoenix from its own ashes. The fact that he spoke more than passable Swedish and was already acquiring at least a smattering of English had made him extremely valuable to the new capital's local authorities, but McDougal had lured him away from them. Exactly how he'd done so remained something of a mystery to Eddie, but the two computers McDougal had been assigned from Grantville's precious supply of desktops seemed to have had something to do with it.

    Whatever the reason for it, Schwanhausser had become one of McDougal's primary liaisons with the city government, and his familiarity with the endless construction projects which typified Magdeburg had proven most useful. The fact that he and Simpson got along like a house on fire (not, Eddie admitted to himself, perhaps the best chosen metaphor, here in the ashes of Magdeburg) didn't seem to be hurting things, either.

    Eddie felt more like a half-forgotten appendage than ever as he followed the other three about. Simpson's German was considerably better than his comments to McDougal had suggested. It wasn't as colloquial as the German Eddie had been soaking up through his pores ever since he'd arrived here, and there were times when it sounded more than a little stiff, even odd, to a seventeenth-century ear... or to a twenty-first-century ear which had learned the language in the seventeenth, but it was quite adequate for his needs.

    So was Haygood’s. The engineer had started out following Simpson around with a somewhat martyred expression. Obviously, his most earnest desire had been to be somewhere else, doing something useful. But as the tour of possible shipyard sites continued, Haygood had become increasingly animated. Apparently, the engineer in him was sufficiently fascinated by the task at hand to at least temporarily overcome his antipathy for Simpson. By the time late morning had turned into mid-afternoon, he was waxing positively enthusiastic over the possibilities.

    Eddie was more than a little surprised by that. And, if he was going to be honest, he was also a little disappointed. Not that he wanted the ironclad project to do anything but succeed, of course. It just . . . irritated him to see a good Stearns loyalist hobnobbing with John Simpson Chandler so energetically.

    But if Haygood’s reaction irritated Eddie, the way Schwanhausser seemed to respond to the industrialist bothered him on a much more profound level. It was as if there were some almost organic relationship between the two of them. One Eddie could sense but not really understand. Something which had automatically located them in relationship to one another in some sort of hierarchy or continuum Eddie hadn't even realized existed.

    He decided he didn't like whatever it was. Part of that probably stemmed from his ingrained distrust of anything Simpson did and, especially, his suspicion of Simpson's empire-building tendencies, which made him uncomfortable with the easy authority the older man seemed to possess in Schwanhausser's eyes. But even more than that, he suspected, it was because he'd already seen quite a few seventeenth-century Germans who seemed to find the role of bootlicker a natural fit.

    That was the one thing Eddie most hated when he encountered it. He supposed it would have been foolish to expect every German in the seventeenth century to be another Gretchen Richter, or even her brother Hans. And by and large, the majority of the German citizens of the United States had done a remarkable job of adapting to the incredibly radical—by seventeenth-century standards—ideology and political freedoms the up-timers had brought with them. In fact, the way some of them—like Gretchen—had seized the twenty-first-century concepts and run with them sometimes frightened even Eddie just a bit.

    But not all of them had adapted. Some of them had good (by their standards) and obvious reasons for disliking the bottom-to-top changes the up-time Americans had inflicted upon them. Those were the people who'd held positions of power and authority under the old order and found the notion of being held accountable by the subjects over whom they had previously ruled but who had now become their fellow citizens most distasteful. Yet some of those same former subjects seemed almost equally lost and unhappy. Perhaps it was because they feared the changes were only temporary—that the United States' enemies would succeed in destroying it after all. If that happened, there would undoubtedly be reprisals against those who had supported the new order when the old one returned to power. And in some cases, it was probably as simple as plain old uncertainty. A case of having learned the old rules of the society which was being remade all about them so well that they felt uncomfortable, even frightened by the ambiguities with which the new rules confronted them.

    Whatever it was, Eddie didn't like it when he encountered it, and he'd seen a lot more of it since leaving Grantville. Maybe it was only natural for the people in the small towns and villages who so far had had little direct, personal contact with the up-timers to be less certain, more hesitant. He hoped that was all it was—that as the United States continued to expand outward from Grantville, its spreading influence would erode that hesitation and replace it with the same sort of often fractious independence he'd seen in Grantville itself.

    But it hadn't yet, and one of the results was that sometimes an up-timer, even someone who still (in the privacy of his own mind) thought of himself as only a kid, found himself being deferred to and kowtowed to as if he were a natural born aristocrat. No doubt some of them enjoyed that, but it made Eddie's skin crawl when it happened to him.

    Of course, he thought sourly, watching Schwanhausser and Haygood listening intently to Simpson, someone like Simpson probably ate it up with a spoon.




    "...need deep water close to the bank," Simpson said as he and the other two stood side-by-side in ankle-deep mud, staring out over an Elbe River that was still high, wide, and murky with the spring floods. The up-timer gestured energetically at the water. "When we send them down the launch ways, they're going to have a tendency to drive downward into the mud if there's not enough depth of water."

    "How much depth, Herr Simpson?" Schwanhausser asked. Simpson looked momentarily taken aback, but Schwanhausser smiled. "I have been learning your system of measurement," he reassured the American.

    "You have?" Simpson looked down at the shorter German.

    "Oh, of course!" Schwanhausser chuckled. "Many of our 'honest merchants' are screaming to the very heavens over the thought of adopting a truly universal standard set of measures, but the Emperor has made it quite clear that the entire Confederated Principalities will adopt your system. And it will be such a relief to deal in feet and yards which are the same from one end of the land to the other, instead of dealing with 'paces' which may be one length in Saxony and another in, say, Westphalia!"

    “You can say that again!” Haygood snorted. “And what it’s going to mean for engineering projects is even more important. For one thing, we’re going to make damned sure that when we get around to building our railroads, ‘standard gauge’ means just that – standard gauge.” He grimaced. “None of that business of every outfit building its own private set of rails to whatever gauge suited it.”

    Simpson glanced at the engineer and nodded.

    “I actually hadn’t considered that aspect of the rail extension project, Mr. Haygood. Of course, I’m sure that’s only one small instance of ways in which true standardized units of measure are going to provide immense benefits. Although– ” he turned to Schwanhausser “– I suppose I can see why some of your merchants might not find the prospect particularly delightful, even if that is incredibly shortsighted of them in the long term. But as far as our problem goes here, I can't really give you a definite answer until I know more about the design displacements of the ships themselves. Let's say that I'm probably going to need somewhere around twelve feet minimum depth."

    "Um." Schwanhausser plucked gently at his lower lip in thought. "We should be able to find you that much water, Herr Simpson. But to get it, you may have to extend your... launching ways further out from the bank."

    “Mr. Haygood?” Simpson asked, cocking an eyebrow at the engineer.

    "That we can do," Haygood assured him.

    "Well, in that case," Schwanhausser said, "I think this area here might meet your requirements. As far as I know, all of this stretch of the river—from there, at the corner of that factory's lot, clear down to that small point in the angle of the bend—is still available. That would give you a frontage on the river of—what? Perhaps two hundred of your yards?"

    "More like two hundred and fifty," Simpson mused.

    “Actually,” Haygood said, casting his engineer’s eye over the same distance, “it’s probably about two hundred and seventy-five. Closer to three hundred than to two hundred, anyway.”

    “I will defer to your judgment,” Schwanhausser said, then laughed. “I did say I was learning your units of measurement, not that I have already mastered them!"

    Simpson and chuckled slightly and turned his back to the river while he studied the terrain for several minutes. They were well outside the old walls of Magdeburg. In fact, they were beyond even the area already being developed for the new factories.

    "I could really use even more frontage than that, actually," he said.

    "We're only building three ships," Eddie pointed out. He tried very hard to avoid sounding like he was nitpicking, but from the expressionless glance Simpson gave him he suspected that he hadn't completely succeeded.

    "No, Mr. Cantrell," the older man said after a moment. "If, in fact, I agree to accept the responsibility for building your ironclads, they will most assuredly not be the only ships built here. At the very least, we'll be building additional tugs and barges. More importantly, don't you think it would be a good idea to provide a little something in the way of support for your battleships? In one sense, after all, it doesn't matter how powerful and well armored we make them, does it? If there are only three of them, then they can only be in three places at once, and I can assure you that we'll need to cover more than three places at time sooner than you may expect."

    "Well, yeah," Eddie said. "But right now, all we're authorized to build is the ironclads."

    "Actually," Simpson said in a voice whose patient tone surprised Eddie, "we aren't authorized to build anything at this particular moment. All we have is President Stearns—" he managed to use Mike's title without so much as a hint of sarcasm, Eddie noticed, and wondered if that was because of Haygood’s and Schwanhausser's presence—"assurance that if he decides to support the project he'll succeed in obtaining authorization for it."

    He smiled very slightly at Eddie's expression.

    "Don't get excited, Mr. Cantrell. The President and I may not see eye to eye on a great many issues, but I don't doubt for moment that if he decides to push the ironclads through, he'll succeed. In fact, I expect him to. And I also expect him to support my proposal to construct a fleet of timberclads to back them up."

    "Timberclads?" Eddie could almost feel his ears perk up, and Haygood looked interested, as well.

    "Precisely." Simpson nodded. "Timberclads should be survivable against seventeenth-century artillery. After all, they stood up reasonably well against nineteenth-century field artillery at the beginning of the Civil War, didn't they?"

    "Yeah," Eddie admitted. "Of course," he added in a more challenging tone, "they retired the timberclads as soon as they could, didn't they?"

    "Actually, they continued to use them throughout the war," Simpson disagreed. "Once they'd developed the capability – and had the time—to build better designed, more heavily armored vessels, they did build all of them they could. But the existing timberclads continued to serve in supporting roles until the very end of the war. And our problem, Mr. Cantrell, is that we're going to begin with the ability to build a very limited number of heavily armored units—by seventeenth-century standards, at least—but we're not going to be able to develop the infrastructure to build any more of them for quite some time. 'Building down,' I believe the President calls it, and rightly so. Which means that in order to project force as broadly as we're going to need to project it, we're going to have to accept the units we can actually build to do it with." He shrugged. "Timberclads should just about fill the bill."



    “He’s got a point, Eddie,” Haygood put in. “A pretty good one, in fact. Timberclads may not be as good as ‘proper’ ironclads, but they’ll kick the ass of any seventeenth-century ‘warship’ they run into. At least on a one-to-one basis.”

    Eddie turned the thought over in his brain, pondering it from several angles. And then, after a moment, he felt himself beginning to nod.

    "You're right," he said. "I guess maybe I did get a bit too fixated on building the Benton or the Tennessee," he admitted in a chastened tone. "It's not like we're going to have to run the batteries at Vicksburg or anything anytime soon, is it?"

    "Probably not," Simpson agreed. "Not, at least, in terms of facing concentrations of true heavy artillery. But don't look so downhearted, Mr. Cantrell. Timberclads should serve adequately in many instances, but there will be cases where properly designed, well-armored ships with heavy artillery are required, as well. In fact, the timberclads' actual function will probably be to carry out routine patrols and shipping protection. When it comes to an actual standup fight with a properly emplaced battery or fort, their job will be to back the ironclads up rather than get into the thick of it themselves."

    He sounded almost as if he were genuinely trying to cheer Eddie up, although the teenager found the possibility unlikely.

    "In the meantime, Dietrich," the older man continued, turning back to their guide, "I believe you're probably right about the basic suitability of the site. I'd like to get a little more of the river bank, if we can, and I'm going to need enough area running back away from the river for the yard facilities themselves and for barracks and a drill field, as well."

    “And eventually, at least, we’re going to want someplace to put a decent drydock,” Haygood put in, as enthusiastically if the idea of a naval shipyard had been his own brainchild from the beginning, and Simpson nodded without looking away from Schwanhausser.

    "That is probably possible, Herr Simpson," the German said thoughtfully. "It may be expensive," he warned.

    "I suspect that if Gustav Adolph asks them politely, whoever owns it will be willing to be reasonable," Simpson said dryly, and Schwanhausser chuckled.

    "I imagine they might," he agreed.

    "Good." Simpson glanced up at the sun, and then down at his watch. It was an expensive electric job which, unlike most of the battery-powered watches in Grantville, continued to tick smoothly along. At first, Eddie had wondered if Simpson were buying additional batteries on the black market, but he'd been forced to give up that cherished suspicion when he realized that it was one of the kinetic-powered ones which used the wearer's motion to recharge its built in capacitor. Which meant, of course, that John Chandler Simpson possessed a modern watch which might run for decades yet.

    Not that anyone needed a watch to guess what was on his mind just now, Eddie thought. The sun was settling steadily lower in the west in a funeral pyre of red and gold cloud.

    "I suppose we should be getting back to our quarters," Simpson remarked, then grimaced. "I don't imagine the street lights are going to be very bright around here after dark."

    "No," Schwanhausser agreed, and glanced back and forth between the three up-timers. "In fact," he continued after a moment in a diffident tone, "the truth is that it isn't always safe for Americans to move about after dark."

    "It isn't?" Simpson, and the German shook his head. The up-timer glanced at Haygood, but from the engineer’s expression he didn’t know any more about the local situation than Simpson and Eddie did, and the ex-industrialist looked back at Schwanhausser. "Is that simply because the local criminal element finds the lack of lighting... congenial to its efforts?" he asked. "Or is there some specific reason why Americans in particular should be on their guard?"

    "It—" Schwanhausser began, then paused.

    "Much of it probably is no more than desperation, darkness, and opportunity, Herr Simpson," he continued after a moment. "Even with all of the construction jobs here in the city, some remain who have no means of support. Some of those who lack work do, however, have families. We have enough criminals even without those circumstances, of course, but it has been much worse than usual this past winter. Armies, battles, and devastation to do not contribute to social tranquility, after all.

    "On the other hand, that situation seems to be improving now that spring is here and the pace of construction has picked up still further. But I fear that there is another danger, one I have not yet been able to convince Herr McDougal to take sufficiently seriously."

    "Which is?" Simpson asked.

    "Richelieu," Schwanhausser half-snarled, and his head swiveled as if he were peering about for assassins. "Do not, whatever you do, underestimate that Frenchman, Herr Simpson! You and the other Americans are the greatest threat he faces, and he knows it well. Did he not attempt to murder your very children because he knew it?"

    Simpson nodded slowly, and Eddie felt a chill which owed very little to the approach of night run down his spine.

    "Well, then," Schwanhausser said, returning Simpson's nod. "Be warned. There are rumors of assassins and prices on American heads. No doubt such rumors would abound, whatever the truth behind them, of course. That is Herr McDougal's opinion, at least, and there is probably some reason in it. Yet I do not think that they are only rumors this time."




    "That it," Alf Harrison announced, tipping back in his chair in front of the radio.

    "Thank you," Simpson said. He was standing behind Harrison, unable to see his expression, but Eddie saw the radio operator roll his eyes. None of McDougal's staff liked the industrialist one bit. Of course, all of them were Stearns loyalists, and most of them had been solid union members before the Ring of Fire, which created two perfectly good reasons for their attitude right there. Simpson couldn't have been unaware of it, but he certainly didn't act as if he were, and Eddie wondered whether that was out of a sense of towering superiority which refused to acknowledge the slings and arrows of his social inferiors. That was what he'd written it down as at first, but he was beginning to question his initial assumptions. He didn't much care for that, because he liked things nice and clear, and he preferred for the people about him to remain if not predictable, at least consistent. The thought that there might be rather more to John Chandler Simpson than he'd assumed was particularly unpalatable, especially given the unmitigated jerk Simpson had shown himself to be during the immediate aftermath of their arrival in Thuringia.

    Eddie wasn't entirely certain why he found the idea so distasteful. Well, he knew part of the reason – he didn't like Simpson, and he hated the very thought of finding something about the man to respect. The ingrained suspicion and hostility which were part of Eddie's self-identification as one of Mike Stearns' men undoubtedly played their parts, as well, he admitted frankly, yet he suspected that there was more to it even than that.

    Maybe what it really came down to was that he'd never before encountered the combination in a single person of truly superior abilities with the capacity to make truly enormous mistakes. Intellectually, Eddie knew it was entirely possible for something like that to happen, but he'd never personally experienced it, and it was an affront to his teenager's sense of absolute right and absolute wrong. Worse, it made him wonder if he might be equally capable of screwing the pooch. Not a pleasant possibility at all, that!

    "Will the commo link be manned all night?" Simpson asked after a moment.

    "Well, yeah," Harrison replied. "'Course there's not much chance Mike—I mean, the President—is gonna be seeing this before sometime tomorrow morning." His voice was somewhat elaborately patient, although no one could quite have called it overtly discourteous.

    "I didn't expect that he would," Simpson said calmly. "I was asking for future information, Mr. Harrison. If this project goes forward, I'll need twenty-four-hour communications capability, and I was simply wondering if it already existed."

    "Oh." Harrison had the grace to blush slightly, but he didn't go overboard about it. "Yeah," he said in a much closer to normal tone, "we've got round-the-clock coverage. It's not like being able to pick up your cell phone, but we can usually get the message through without too much delay."

    "Excellent," Simpson said, and nodded to him. "Come along, Mr. Cantrell," he said then, and stepped out of the radio room and headed back up the short hall towards McDougal's office.

    He was finally showing at least some signs of fatigue, Eddie noticed, although they were still minor enough most people wouldn't have noticed at all. Nothing more than a slight limp on the right side—something even Eddie wouldn't have noted if he hadn't been following Simpson, Haygood, and Schwanhausser around all day.

    "What do you think about the possibilities?" he asked as he followed the older man down the hall. He hadn't seen the four-page, handwritten draft of the message Harrison had just transmitted back to Grantville for Simpson.

    "I think.... I think it's possible, Mr. Cantrell," Simpson replied after only the briefest pause, then stopped just outside McDougal's office and turned to face Eddie.

    "I don't say that I think it will be easy, you understand," he continued. "But assuming that the President is as successful as usual in prying the necessary resources out of the Allocation Committee, and assuming that Gustav Adolph supports this as enthusiastically as I certainly expect him to and that Mr. Haygood’s services are made available to us, initially at least, then I believe it should be entirely possible to set up our navy yard here in Magdeburg. Shipping all of the materials we'll need from Grantville will be a royal pain in the ass, of course, but I don't see how we could realistically expect to be able to build and launch them very much up-river from here. And the river itself is going to require quite a bit of improvement before we can move them freely, even operating from here instead of Halle."

    "But you think the idea itself is really practical?" Eddie asked.

    "Yes, Mr. Cantrell, I do," Simpson told him with a slight smile which, for some reason, made Eddie feel unexpectedly good. "Mind you, I can see quite a few aspects of your initial proposal which are going to require some... refinement, shall we say? But overall, I believe that it's not only a practical idea, but a good one."

    "Does that mean you're gonna take the job?" Eddie demanded with an edge of lingering suspicion.

    "Let's just say," Simpson said, "that my participation in the project is something of a prerequisite if it's going to succeed." He smiled again, ever so thinly, as Eddie stiffened. "Of course it is, Mr. Cantrell," he chided. "Or were you under the misapprehension that there was anyone else in Grantville who'd have even a clue as to how to make this work?"

    It was truly remarkable, Eddie reflected as the ex-industrialist resumed his progress towards McDougal's office, how easily Simpson could go from making him feel obscurely pleased to absolutely infuriated with only two simple sentences.




    Nor was Simpson finished infuriating people for the evening, either, the teenager discovered a few moments later.

    McDougal looked up with something less than total enthusiasm as Simpson led Eddie back into his office.

    "Is there something else I can do for you?" he asked.

    "Actually, there is," Simpson told him, seating himself in one of the chairs facing McDougal's desk. Eddie started to sit in the other chair, then stopped. Sitting beside Simpson might seem to be ranging himself with the outsider against McDougal, so he chose to stand, leaning against the wall, instead.

    "Oh?" McDougal sat back in his chair, his expression wary as Simpson's tone registered.

    "I wanted to ask you about something Mr. Schwanhausser mentioned to me earlier this evening," Simpson said. "He advised us to be cautious about our movements."

    "Not that again!" McDougal sighed, then shook his head wearily. "Was Dietrich bending your ear about Richelieu again?" he asked.

    "As a matter of fact, he was."

    "Well, he's just a little bit loony on the topic," McDougal said. He shrugged. "I guess it's not too surprising, really. He did lose most of his family when Tilly burned Magdeburg. A lot of the locals got pretty paranoid after that happened. Now they see murderers and assassins hiding in every alley, and of course the only person who could be sending them is Richelieu."

    "So you don't think there's anything to his fears?"

    "That Richelieu is sending assassins to Magdeburg? No, I don't think there's anything to that. And if he were sending them here at all, he'd be sending them after Gustav Adolph, not us. Which doesn't mean that there isn't enough 'street crime' here in Magdeburg to make it smart to stay alert."

    "Have any of our people—up-timers, I mean—been attacked?"

    "Jim Ennis got knifed about a week ago. Hurt pretty bad, in fact, though it looks like he’s going to recover fully," McDougal said. Simpson looked at him sharply, and McDougal shrugged again. "Lucky for him, one of the Swedish patrols was passing through and heard him scream. He managed to run for it after the one stab, and the thief gave up and disappeared back down the alley when he saw the patrol. The bastard got Jim's wallet and his pocket watch first, though. Big windup railroad model, too, not battery-powered."

    "So you think it was a robbery? A mugging?"

    "What else could it have been? The guy demanded Jim's wallet and his 'jewels,' then stuck a knife in him. Sounds like a robbery to me." McDougal sounded a bit impatient, and Simpson snorted.

    "Doesn't it seem just a bit odd to you that he stabbed this Ennis after getting what he'd come for?" McDougal looked blank, and Simpson shook his head. "I assume from what you just said that your Mr. Ennis gave the 'robber' what he'd demanded instead of trying to resist?"

    "Damn straight he did," McDougal replied. "Jim's about fifty years old, and the first thing he knew about it was when he stepped around the corner and the bastard showed him the knife! What the hell would you have done in his position?"

    "Quite possibly exactly the same thing," Simpson said. "But my point is that he did what this 'thief' of yours told him too. He handed over what the man wanted and didn't resist. And the 'robber' still chose to stab him. You said the Swedish patrol heard him 'scream,' not 'shout for help,' so I'm assuming that he hadn't even tried to summon assistance before he was stabbed."

    "This isn't the twenty-first century," McDougal pointed out. "There isn’t exactly a cop on every street corner, and there are some real hardcases and badasses hanging around here. Some of them would cut your throat for a nickel."

    "I don't doubt it. For that matter, there were plenty of places back home where people would have cut your throat just as cheerfully for even less. But usually, Mr. McDougal—usually, I say—even around here thieves don't go around murdering people just for the hell of it. I'm perfectly well aware that there are exceptions to the rule. But it's still just a bit unusual, I'd think, for someone who's been able to get everything he demanded with only the threat of violence to go ahead and murder the person who gave it to him."

    "Like I say, it's a rough neighborhood," McDougal replied. "People get knifed all the time, sometimes for no reason at all."

    "Actually, people very seldom get knifed 'for no reason at all,'" Simpson disagreed. "There's always some reason for it."

    "Maybe so, but there must have been dozens of locals who've gotten robbed, beaten up, or stabbed in the last two or three months, compared to a single up-timer."

    "On the other hand," Simpson pointed out, "there aren't simply dozens of locals for each up-timer in Magdeburg, Mr. McDougal. There are thousands of them. Statistically, Americans—excuse me, up-timers—represent an extremely small sample of the total population. So if this was no more than a random street crime, the odds against the thief picking one of the literal handful of up-timers in Magdeburg must have been quite high, don't you think?"

    "Look," McDougal said, "why don't you come right out and say whatever it is your driving at, Simpson. What? You think I'm just been sitting here on my ass ignoring some sort of master plot against all Americans everywhere? Is that it? You're accusing me of not doing my job?"

    "I didn't say that," Simpson replied. "In fact, all I intended to do was to suggest to you that Dieter might have a point. Of course it's possible that Mr. Ennis was simply the victim of an armed robber with a particularly vicious temper. But it's also possible that the entire object was to make an assassination look like a robbery. That was all I came in here to suggest. On the other hand, now that you ask, and after hearing your reaction to my questions and my suggestion that you might want to be just a little open-minded on the question, I have to say that, yes, it does sound to me like you've been sitting on your ass—or maybe your brain—where this particular possibility is concerned."

    "Listen, you—" McDougal began furiously, but Simpson only shook his head and stood.

    "I didn't come in here to argue with you, McDougal. I came in here to try to get you to think. Obviously, whatever your other virtues—and I'm sure they're legion—may be, thinking isn't one of them. You do remember, as Dieter himself reminded me just this afternoon, that it was Richelieu who ordered the attack on the high school? The high school in which your children were students? Why do you think he did that? Richelieu is capable of total ruthlessness, but the man isn't a complete psychotic, you know. He attacked the school because of what it represents, and what it represents is knowledge. The information Gustav Adolph needs and that Richelieu fears even more than he does the Spanish Habsburgs. Well, he didn't get the high school, and he didn't manage to kill all of your teachers and all of your children in one fell swoop, but that's not the only place knowledge is locked up, is it? It's also walking around inside the brain of every single up-timer. And do you seriously think that Richelieu isn't perfectly capable of and willing to attempt to eliminate as many of those brains as he can?"

    McDougal stared at him, jaw clenched, and Simpson snorted.

    "Apparently you do. Well, I hope the people responsible for keeping your President alive are a bit more willing to think the unthinkable than you appear to be. I may not be one of his greatest admirers, but if I were Richelieu, the only person I'd want dead right now even more badly than I wanted Gustav Adolph that way would be Mike Stearns. You might want to pass that assessment along to him."

    Simpson's voice was desert-dry, and McDougal's jaw unlocked enough to drop ever so slightly. Simpson observed the phenomenon and produced another snort, then glanced at Eddie.

    "Come along, Mr. Cantrell. I'd like to find some supper before we turn in for the evening."

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