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In The Navy: Section Four

       Last updated: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 03:41 EDT



    Dinner was quite probably the best meal Eddie had eaten since leaving Grantville. In fact, it was in the running for the best meal he'd had since the Ring of Fire, period. The "restaurant" was little more than a very large tent – or, at least, a tarp stretched across two-and-a-fraction walls of what would someday be a proper restaurant but which was currently still under construction. At least the kitchens seemed to be complete, and The Crown and Eagle Bar and Grill was obviously the establishment of choice for both the Americans – Haygood was already there when they arrived – and many of the Swedish officers stationed in Magdeburg.

    The name was a nice touch, Eddie thought, and he rather suspected that The Crown and Eagle was a franchise of the owners of the Thuringian Gardens back in Grantville. It wouldn't be surprising, since everyone knew Gustav Adolf was planning to make Magdeburg his new imperial capital in Germany. The city was already a "boom town," and the boom was just getting underway. There was certainly something very up-time about the choice of names, and he recognized two of the bouncers from the Gardens. The food was just as good, too, and he tucked into the steak Simpson had decided to treat both of them to.

    There were times when Eddie missed the twenty-first century with excruciating poignancy, and memories of food had a tendency to bring them on. No pre-Ring of Fire American had been even remotely prepared for the change in diet imposed by their transition to the seventeenth century. It wasn't just the esoteric or 'modern' foods they missed, either. It was the fact that the entire food distribution system, and the food production system, as well, was so damned limited compared to the one they'd grown up with. Steak, for example. It was generally available, but it cost an arm and a leg. Or corn-on-the-cob. They were lucky as hell that they'd had seed corn available when they were kicked back in time, but there hadn't been enough of it. Almost every kernel they'd been able to produce in the shortened growing season they'd enjoyed after arriving in Thuringia had gone right back into seeds, rather than onto people's tables. And tomatoes. Or avocados. God, Eddie had never imagined that he would have been willing to contemplate homicide for a couple of scoops of guacamole!

    But at least The Crown and Eagle's cooks knew how to do justice to one of their extraordinarily expensive T-bones... unlike the cooks in the inns in which he and Simpson had stayed or dined on their journey to Magdeburg. Most of them had figured that the only way to cook beef was to boil it into a consistency which would have made decent cavalry boots. This steak, on the other hand, was done to medium-rare perfection (over an open-fire grill, of course!) and served up with nicely sauteed mushrooms, and a salad of very early bib lettuce (courtesy of the up-timers) with a vinaigrette dressing.

    There was even, wonder or wonders, a baked potato. Potatoes had already been introduced in large parts of Germany before the Ring of Fire—to Eddie's surprise, since he knew that Frederick the Great had had to force them onto Prussia in the next century—but they were still something of a rarity. Of course, once he reflected upon the matter, it made sense that the Crown and Eagle would serve them, given that so much of the establishment's popularity stemmed from its "American cuisine."

    Eddie luxuriated in all of them with shameless hedonism. In fact, it was quite some time before he was able to tear himself sufficiently away from gastronomic considerations to pay much attention to whatever else was going on about him.

    " the point, you see," Simpson was saying to a pock-faced Scotsman who was obviously one of Gustav Adolph's officers, "is to eventually completely eliminate the pike from the battlefield."

    "Och, mon, you're daft!" the Scotsman declared. "There's never a day musketeers could stop a hard charge of well-trained pikes without pikes of their own,." He shook his head and thumped his beer tankard on the rough-planked table. "The King's already increased his proportion of shot to pikes to two-to-one, and that's higher than any of these stinking Imperialists. But any more than that, and we've nothing to stop t'other side's pikes with, and there's an end to it. It might be that if all our 'new weapons' could fire as fast as yours can there might be something in it, but they're not going to be able to, are they now?"

    "I'm not sure exactly what sort of firearms are being considered, actually," Simpson admitted, and looked down the table at Haygood. “Mr. Haygood? Do you?”

    “No, not really,” the engineer replied after washing down a mouthful with a healthy swig of beer. “I understand that they’re still debating the advantages of flintlocks and caplocks. I know which one I’d prefer, but the manufacturing end isn’t my kind of engineering, and I’ve been kind of busy with other projects, I’m afraid. So far, I don’t think anyone’s even suggested the possibility of a breechloader. ”

    "Given the difficulties in manufacturing proper cartridges—and, for that matter, fulminating powder and primer caps—I'd assume that you're going to be looking at muzzle-loaders of some sort, at best,” Simpson agreed, and turned back to the Scotsman.

    “I'm guessing that they'll probably be flintlocks, but the designs should include cylindrical iron ramrods and conical touchholes. In that case, your rate of fire is going to be considerably higher than it is right now, but you're right that it's never going to match that of up-time weapons. I'm sure that plans are already afoot to provide you with rifles, which will let you open fire effectively at greater ranges, so you'll generally have longer to shoot at an attacking enemy, but that certainly isn't enough by itself to guarantee that you can stop a determined charge.

    "But you're missing at least part of the point, Captain. If you eliminate the pikes, then you can take the pikemen and issue all of them rifles – muskets, if you prefer – as well. And if your entire army is equipped with rifles and bayonets. . . " He paused. "Ah, they did mention bayonets to you, didn't they?" he asked.

    "You mean that wee silly knife they're talking about hanging on the end of a musket?" The Scotsman shrugged. "Och, and won't that be useful against some bastard with a twelve-foot pike!"



    "That ‘wee silly knife’ will be a lot more useful than you think, especially if your troops are trained with them," Haygood interjected. The Scotsman looked skeptical, and Haygood showed his teeth in a thin smile. "What happens when somebody gets inside your reach with a shorter, handier weapon?" he challenged. "Say, someone with a knife who blocks your sword to one side while he rams it into your belly?"

    The Scotsman blinked, and it was Haygood’s turn to shrug.

    "Trust me, properly used, a bayoneted rifle is very effective in close combat. As it happens, I’m one of the very few up-timers who’s had actual experience with the kind of weapons and tactics Mr. Simpson’s talking about.” He did not, Eddie noticed, explain that his “actual experience” was that of a hobbyist, and the Scotsman frowned.

    “Mr. Haygood is correct,” Simpson said. “For all practical purposes, bayonets will turn every single man in your entire army into a pikeman, if he's needed. And in the meantime, if all of your infantry are musket-armed and trained and disciplined to employ those muskets in mass fire that's properly timed, not very many pike formations are going to be able to close with them."

    The Scotsman looked more thoughtful, but it was clear that acceptance still ran a distant second—or third—to skepticism, and Simpson cocked his head.

    "Suppose that I gave your musketeers weapons that could open aimed fire at a range of, say, three hundred paces and expect to hit man-sized targets at that distance. And that I got their rate of fire up to four shots a minute, at the same time," he suggested after a moment. "And suppose that your army had nine thousand men in it, and that I organized them into three firing lines, each three thousand men long. And then suppose that I organized your musketeers into ninety-six-man companies, each composed of three thirty-two-man 'platoons,' and trained them to fire by half-platoons."

    The Scotsman was staring at Simpson, his eyes almost crossed as he tried to follow what the American was saying.

    "All right, now," Simpson continued. "If you've got three thousand men in each line, then that means that each line consists of thirty-one companies, or ninety-three platoons, or a total between all three lines of sixty-three companies and... two-hundred and seventy-nine platoons, right?"

    The sandbagged-looking Scotsman nodded, obviously prepared to let the up-timer do the mathematical heavy lifting, and Simpson shrugged.

    "Well, the math is actually pretty simple. If your musketeers can fire four times every minute, then the total reload cycle for each man in your formation is approximately fifteen seconds. So if half of each platoon in your first line fires, and then two and a half seconds later the second half of each platoon in the first line fires, and then two and a half seconds after that half of each platoon in your second line fires, and so on, your nine thousand men are going to the sending the next best thing to fifteen hundred rounds down-range every two and a half seconds. That's almost thirty-six thousand rounds per minute."

    The Scotsman's eyes weren't crossed now – indeed, they were almost bulging, and Simpson shrugged again.

    "But the total numbers don't begin to tell the entire tale, do they?" he inquired mildly. "Remember, fifteen hundred of them are going to be arriving every two and a half seconds. Effectively, there will be a continuous, unbroken wall of bullets pouring into any pike block foolish enough to try to close with your formation, which I should think would have at least a tiny bit of an effect on its morale. Obviously you've seen a battlefield or two of your own. How well do you think a formation of pikes would do when it came to holding its ranks and carrying through with an effective charge under those circumstances?"

    "Carrying through?" The Scotsman shook his head as if he'd just been punched. "Mother of God, mon! If you're telling the truth about the range of these 'rifles' of yours, then it would take a good three minutes—at least!—under fire for the pikes to close, and that would mean—"

    "That would mean that they were trying to charge through over one hundred thousand rounds of continuous fire," Simpson said, once again doing the math for him obligingly. "So if there were nine thousand pikemen, and if one third of the shots your men fired actually hit, you'd kill each of them about four times."

    The American smiled thinly, and raised one hand, palm uppermost.

    "Of course, that's under perfect conditions. It assumes that the terrain lets you see the target and begin engaging it at extended range, and that your rate of fire isn't affected by something like rain, barrel fouling, or something like that. And once the firing begins, smoke alone is going to cause individual accuracy to drop off pretty severely. But I think you see my point?"

    "Aye, you might be saying that," the Scotsman said, and looked at Haygood, as if seeking additional confirmation of Simpson’s claims.

    “Mr. Simpson’s description isn’t exactly the one I would have used,” the engineer said. “It sounds more like what the Brits did to the French during the Napoleonic wars than the sort of tactics I’m trained in. Of course, most of the differences are because the ones he’s talking about would make the kind of tactics you’re accustomed to downright suicidal. Which is why we developed better ones which were even more effective. Mr. Simpson’s example was hypothetical, but in the up-time American Civil War, a battle was fought– would have been fought – with weapons very similar to the ones he’s describing, about a hundred and thirty years from now at a place called Chickamauga, and in just two days, the two sides suffered over thirty-seven thousand casualties. And at the Battle of Antietam, in the same war, the two sides suffered twenty-two thousand casualties in a single day.”

    It was obvious to Eddie that no one had ever explained it to the Scotsman the way Simpson and Haygood just had—certainly not with the numbers the two of them had produced—and the officer stared at the Americans for two or three more seconds before he drained his tankard. Then he waved it at one of the barmaids for a refill and turned back to Simpson.

    "And what other evil little surprises would you be suggesting?" he asked, leaning his forearms on the table and gazing at the American intently.




    It was well past midnight before Simpson, Haygood and Eddie left The Crown and Eagle. Many of the Swedish officers who'd helped fill the restaurant had been thoroughly standoffish when they first arrived—no doubt because Simpson's reputation as an anti-German and anti-Swedish bigot had preceded him. Despite that, however, most of them had been listening when he began his discussion with the pock-faced Scotsman. And whatever his other faults might have been, it seemed that John Simpson had a definite gift for getting at the heart—or, at least, the nuts and bolts—of an explanation.

    Even Eddie, with his wargamer's fascination with military history, wouldn't have thought of breaking down the numbers the way Simpson had. He would have just waved his hands and insisted that the weight of fire would have been sufficient to break the enemy's charge. Which would have overlooked the fact that the members of his audience, whatever theoretical faith they might have in Americans' technical ingenuity, were basing their understanding of what he was saying on their actual experience with matchlocks. No wonder they'd had such serious reservations about the possibilities!

    But once Simpson had gotten the actual numbers across to them – and once the notion that Haygood really knew what he was talking about had percolated through their brains – virtually every officer in the restaurant had started easing closer and closer to the table the three Americans shared. And as they'd closed in, they'd begun to ask other questions, as well. Lots of other questions.

    Simpson had done his best to answer those questions, and somehow Eddie hadn't been as surprised as he once would have been when Simpson frankly admitted, from time to time, that he didn't know an answer. When that happened, Haygood usually did, although there were times when even he had to admit he was stumped. Two or three times, Simpson actually turned to Eddie, drawing the younger man into the conversation when he rightly suspected that the question was the sort a war game enthusiast might know how to answer. But there was a difference between the explanations Eddie gave and those Simpson provided. Indeed, there was a difference between the answers that came from Simpson and those which came from Haygood, as well, and as Eddie listened to the older man, he knew what that difference was... and why it convinced Gustav Adolph's officers listen so intently to the ex-Navy officer.

    Experience. John Simpson had never served in the howling chaos of a seventeenth-century battlefield, yet there was something about his voice and manner, an assurance that he knew what he was talking about from personal, first-hand experience when he explained things to the hard-bitten officers of the Swedish Army. Not, perhaps, the same experience as their own, but experience nonetheless.

    They kept him talking for hours before they let him go. And when they finally did let him take his leave, it was with nods of mutual respect unlike anything Simpson had ever seen in Grantville itself, before or after the Ring of Fire.

    It would have taken a superman not to have been pleased and flattered by such a reception, and whatever else he might have been, John Simpson Chandler was not a superman. The after-supper discussion had to have been the most enjoyable single evening he'd spent since arriving as a less than eager guest for his son's wedding, and it showed. He was never going to be an expressive man, Eddie realized, yet there was a new liveliness in his voice and eyes as the two of them finally gathered up a Haygood who'd apparently had a beer or two too many and headed towards their quarters in the boardinghouse where McDougal had rented rooms for them.

    It was blacker than the pits of Hell outside the restaurant. Eddie remembered how Mr. Ferrara had once complained, before the Ring of Fire, about light pollution and how it interfered with observations on their astronomy field trips even in rural West Virginia, but he hadn't really understood at the time. Not the way he did now.

    Not even the endless months of the winter just past could have prepared him for the darkness which enveloped the one vast construction site which was Magdeburg. Dark as those winter nights had seemed at the time, Grantville at least still had electricity. Light bulbs were one of the items which had fallen under strict rationing controls as yet one more utterly irreplaceable twenty-first-century resource which had been taken completely for granted before the Ring of Fire. Because of that rationing, Grantville's homes and businesses and public places had seemed woefully dimly lit to up-timer eyes.

    Compared to Magdeburg at midnight, however, Grantville at its dimmest had been lit up like downtown Las Vegas on a Saturday night. The inky blackness of the muddy streets and alleys between the half-completed walls of the buildings was broken only by occasional—very occasional—torches or lanterns. In many ways, the widely scattered pinpricks of light only made the darkness even denser by comparison, and Eddie buttoned his denim jacket against a chill night breeze as he followed Simpson out of the restaurant. Simpson, on the other hand, actually unzipped his light windbreaker, as if he welcomed the briskness.

    It would have been easy to become hopelessly lost amid all of the heaps of brick, timbers, and other building materials, but they didn't have all that far to go. Besides, dark and confusing as most of the city might be, Pete McDougal had insisted that the United States' official headquarters had to be well-lighted—by Magdeburg standards, at least—at all times. That provided a visual beacon they could orient themselves upon, and they moved out briskly (or, at least, as briskly as Haygood's... cheerfulness allowed) through the muddy darkness.

    Haygood was kind enough to provide them with an enthusiastic, if not particularly tuneful serenade, but Simpson wasn't in a very talkative mood. No doubt he'd used up a month or two of conversation after supper, Eddie reflected just a bit sourly. Eddie didn't feel much more like talking himself, though. He was too busy with his own ruminations, still trying to figure out how he felt about the surprising, apparently contradictory layers of Simpson's personality. And so the two of them trudged along silently through the deserted streets and alleys.

    Except that they weren't quite "deserted" after all.

    Eddie was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn't notice when Simpson abruptly halted. His first inkling that anything out of the ordinary was happening came when he literally ran into the older man's back. It was a much more substantial back than Eddie would have anticipated, and the wiry teenager bounced backward a step and a half from the impact.

    "What the hell—?" he began angrily, but before he could complete the question, several things happened at once.

    He and Simpson had just entered the faint spill of light from a lantern burning outside an alley mouth. It was the most feeble of illuminations, but clearly it was enough for the three men who'd been waiting in the alley to identify them. Eddie knew it was, although it took him two or three precious seconds to realize the fact.

    "There!" someone hissed in German. "That's them—get them!"

    Eddie was still gaping, trying to get a handle on what was happening, when he saw the gleam of naked steel and three burly figures coming straight for him. Confusion barely had time to begin giving way to fear and the beginning of panic as he realized Dieter Schwanhausser had been right to warn them. Whether or not the men in the alley worked directly for Richelieu didn't really matter. What mattered was that all three of them were obviously intent upon shoving a foot or so of knife blade through one Eddie Cantrell.

    He opened his mouth to shout for help, even as he stumbled backward another step. But that was as far as he got before a hammer blow of sound smashed his ears like a baseball bat.

    The muzzle flash lit up the night like a lightning bolt. Eddie had never before seen a handgun fired in near darkness at very close range, and the brilliant eruption of light stabbed at his eyeballs like a knife. But if it came as a surprise to Eddie, it was far more of a surprise to their assailants.

    Eddie heard the beginning of a scream of agony, then cringed as the baseball bat whacked him across the ears again and another stroboscopic blast of light assaulted his optic nerves. But that same flash of light seemed to carve John Simpson out of the darkness, and Eddie saw the nine-millimeter automatic which had materialized magically from somewhere under his unzipped windbreaker.

    The city slicker from Pittsburgh had dropped into a half-crouched shooter's stance, with the handgun held two-handed, and the abortive scream of pain was chopped abruptly off as Simpson's second shot hit the lead attacker dead center, just above the collarbone.

    One of the other assailants shouted an incredulous curse and lunged desperately forward, but Simpson didn't even shift position. Haygood was just beginning to claw at the revolver holstered at his hip when Simpson fired again—twice, in a quick one-two sequence that punched a pair of bullets into the triangle formed by the would-be killer's forehead and the base of his throat.

    That one went down without even a scream, his throat and the back of his neck exploding in a grisly spray, Eddie noticed almost numbly, and the third man hesitated. It was only the briefest of pauses, and Eddie always wondered afterward exactly what the man had thought he was doing. He might even have entertained some notion of throwing down his knife and surrendering, but if that was what he had in mind, he didn't get around to it in time to do him any good.

    Simpson's point of aim shifted, and Eddie had a fraction of the second to wonder how the man could possibly see what he was doing after the blinding brilliance of the muzzle flashes. Maybe he was actually closing his eyes—or one of them, at least—as he fired. Eddie didn't have a clue about that, but it didn't really matter, either. The nine-millimeter pistol barked twice more in that same, deadly rhythm. One shot hit the third attacker perhaps an inch above the heart; the second took him squarely above the right eye and slammed him back to slither bonelessly down the alley wall behind him just as Haygood's revolver finally cleared its holster.

    Eddie Cantrell stood there, frozen in stunned disbelief. The entire attack couldn't have consumed more than five seconds. Probably less. But in those few heartbeats of time, three men had tried to kill him... and the stuffed shirt from Pittsburgh had killed all three of them, instead.




    "Good morning, Mr. Cantrell."

    "Uh, good morning," Eddie half-mumbled as Simpson greeted him the following day. The older man sat at the small, rickety table in the tiny "sitting room" of their shared quarters, carefully cleaning a Browning High-Power automatic.

    It was the first really good look Eddie had gotten at it, and from the way the bluing was worn away, it was obvious to him that the handgun had seen a lot of use. It was equally obvious that it had been lovingly maintained during its lengthy lifespan, and Eddie wondered how Simpson had managed to conceal it so effectively that Eddie had never even suspected he had it.

    "Are you ready for breakfast?" Simpson asked.

    "Breakfast?" Eddie repeated, then swallowed heavily, remembering.

    "Well, lunch, actually, I suppose," Simpson said thoughtfully, his face expressionless, although there might have been the faintest flicker of amusement in his eyes. If so, Eddie scarcely noticed as his mind replayed the previous night's events.

    The sound of the shots, especially so close to the United States' "embassy," had brought two different Swedish patrols at a dead run. Not only that, but the sentries outside the embassy itself had responded almost as quickly, and, unlike the Swedes, they'd brought powerful up-time hand-portable lights with them.

    Eddie rather wished they hadn't. He'd seen carnage and bloodshed enough for someone two or three times his age since arriving in Thuringia. He'd been there when Frank Jackson smashed his first Imperial army of mercenaries outside Badenburg and he and Jeff Higgins, Larry Wild, and Jimmy Andersen had faced down a second army of rapists and murderers who'd been their so-called "allies" with nothing but twelve-gauge shotguns and outrage. He'd been there at the Wartburg, too—and at the Alte Veste. Despite his brash, often bubbling exterior, there were nights when nightmares spawned by the memories of those sights and sounds kept him awake, tossing and turning.

    But whatever he'd seen, he was scarcely hardened against it, and the sight of what Simpson's shots had done to their targets on the way through had almost cost him his excellent supper.

    McDougal himself had appeared on the scene in less than ten minutes, still buttoning his shirt while he stared down at the three twisted, blood-leaking bodies and the wicked looking knives lying beside them in the mud.

    "So, Mr. McDougal," Simpson had grated, the harsh anger in his voice the only indication he seemed prepared to allow of his own adrenaline and fear, "do you still think Mr. Schwanhausser is overreacting to the possible threat from Richelieu?"

    McDougal had flinched visibly from the bitter, biting irony of the question, but he'd only stared down at the bodies for a few more seconds, then shaken his head.

    "No," he'd said then, not that he'd had much choice about it. "No, Mr. Simpson. I don't suppose he is."

    There'd been quite a bit more after that, of course, before anyone got to bed, and it had been still longer before Eddie managed to drop off to sleep. Which was why he was so late rolling out.

    "Uh, yeah," he said, shaking himself out of his thoughts. "I guess I am sorta hungry, at that."

    He sounded a bit surprised, even to himself, and Simpson snorted. There was amusement in that snort, but not the harsh, dismissive sort of humor Eddie might once have expected. Indeed, in its own way, it was almost gentle.

    "Well, give me a few minutes to finish up here, and I'll treat you to lunch at The Crown and Eagle," the older man said while his hands briskly broke down his cleaning rod and packed it and the other cleaning supplies away, then reassembled the Browning quickly and expertly. Eddie watched him, noting the smoothness of the practiced movements, and dismissed any lingering suspicion that Simpson had borrowed the handgun from someone for the trip.

    "You had that all along, didn't you?" he asked after a moment.

    "Yes, I did," Simpson agreed, not looking up as he finished reassembling the pistol and slid a freshly loaded magazine into the grip. "The Browning is an excellent weapon," he observed, "although the nine-millimeter round is a little short on stopping power, compared to something like the .45. On the other hand, with a hundred and forty-seven-grain hollowpoint and about four-point-six grains of HS-6, it will do the job quite adequately."

    "I... see." Eddie cleared his throat. "How long have you been carrying it?" he asked.

    "For considerably longer than you've been alive," Simpson replied, and looked up at last with a slight smile. "There are times, Mr. Cantrell, when one should be a little cautious about leaping to conclusions, don't you think?"

    "Yeah," Eddie said slowly, "there are." He paused, meeting Simpson's eyes levelly, then added, "I guess everybody should bear that in mind, shouldn't they?"

    "I imagine they should," Simpson agreed after a moment, and something passed between them as the older man met the youngster's gaze equally levelly. Eddie wasn't certain what that "something" was, but he knew both of them had felt it.

    Then the moment passed, and Simpson stood. He tucked the Browning away into the worn holster at the small of his back which Eddie had never noticed before, then nodded towards the door.

    Eddie nodded back, and the two of them headed off towards The Crown and Eagle. Quite a few people looked at them—and especially Simpson—oddly as they passed, but the older man paid the curious no attention.

    "By the way, Mr. Cantrell," he said casually as they approached the restaurant, "while you were sleeping in this morning, I went over to check with Mr. Franklin to see if President Stearns had responded to my message from yesterday."

    "Oh?" Eddie glanced at him. Something about Simpson's tone sounded warning signals. "Had he?"

    "Yes, he had," Simpson replied. "In fact, he informed me that he's accepted my recommendations and that he and his cabinet have authorized me to call upon Mr. McDougal for assistance in formally acquiring title to the land for our navy yard."

    "Our navy yard?" Eddie repeated, and Simpson nodded.

    "Yes. We're going to have to return to Grantville, of course. I'll need to spend some time with you and your original plan if we're going to work out a practical design for the ironclads. And we need to discuss with the President how many timberclads we'll need to add to the mix. And, for that matter, exactly what sort of priorities for resources—other than the railroad rails, of course—and manpower the Navy is going to require. And how we're going to organize that manpower and set up training programs."

    "Why do you keep saying 'we'?" Eddie asked. Simpson cocked an eyebrow at him, and the youngster shrugged irritably. "I know you're going to tear my design completely apart and put it together all over again," he said. "I accepted that when I first proposed it to Mike—I mean, the President. So, okay, it wasn't a perfect design. I never claimed it was."

    "No, it wasn't," Simpson agreed in a coolly judicious tone. "On the other hand, I'm sure we'll have time to work the bugs out of it. After all, it's going to take weeks – probably at least a couple of months—of organizational work before we can get back to Magdeburg and really start setting things up here."

    "Dammit, there you go again with that 'we' stuff! Just because Mike sent me along on this first trip doesn't mean I want to spend my time sitting around in this mudhole while they build the city around us!"

    "That's unfortunate," Simpson observed. "On the other hand, I'm sure there are a great many people who find themselves compelled to do things they didn't want to."

    Eddie stopped dead in the street and turned to face the older man squarely.

    "Just go ahead and tell me what you're so pleased about!" he snapped irritably.

    "That's 'Tell me what you're so pleased about, Sir,'" Simpson told him, and Eddie's eyes began to widen in sudden, dreadful surmise.

    "I'm afraid so, Lieutenant Cantrell," Simpson informed him. "Still, I suppose it's only appropriate that the individual responsible for inspiring his country to build a navy in the first place should find himself drafted for duty as it's very first commissioned officer. Well, second, actually, I suppose," he amended judiciously.

    "B-b-but I—I mean, I never—You can't be serious!" Eddie blurted out.

    "Oh, but I can, Lieutenant," Simpson said coolly, and showed his teeth in the edge of a smile. "Don't worry," he advised, taking Eddie by the elbow and getting him moving once more, "you'll adjust quickly enough, Lieutenant. Oh, and by the way, I imagine you'll adjust even more quickly if you remember to call me 'Admiral' or 'Sir' from now on."

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