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The Suhl Incident

Eric Flint and John Zeek


January 13, 1633

Warrant Officer Hatfield was using a lever to hold the engine steady while Private First Class Cooper bolted it to the motor mounts when he saw Captain Pitre walk into the shop. Turning to Cooper's assistant, who was nearby, he said, "Filss, take over here and hold this steady. It looks like the captain wants to talk to me."

"Good morning, ma'am," he said, as he walked to meet the captain. "The second locomotive is looking good. All we have left to do is set up the controls and fit the wheels and it'll be ready to test. Close to one hundred horse power and a ton heavier, it should out-pull number one by a goodly margin. Private Cooper here is a wonder as a mechanic. He does good work, and is just full of ideas."

"That's great, Mr. Hatfield. Your engine shop boys are doing an excellent job." Captain Pitre responded loudly enough so that the entire shop could hear. Then in a lower voice she added, "But the reason I stopped by was because General Kagg sent word he wants to see you and me this morning."

The New United States was now part of the Confederated Principalities of Europe, with the Swedish king, Gustavus Adolphus, recognized as its official military leader under his title of captain general. After lengthy negotiations, President Stearns had agreed that Gustavus Adolphus could station one regiment—one, no more—in or near Grantville. The regiment he sent was one of his oldest "first guard regiments." It was known as the Yellow Regiment, and while most of its soldiers and officers were mercenaries, usually Germans—as was true of the Swedish king's army as a whole—the commanding officer was a Swedish general, Lars Kagg.

As the two trudged through the snow, Hatfield wondered what Kagg wanted. He decided it couldn't be about anything the train crew had done wrong. They all, even Jochen Rau, had been on their best behavior lately. And Kagg had been very polite at the reception for his arrival last month.

Then the thought hit him that it might be about what Henry Johnson told him only this morning. General Jackson had wanted Pat, Anse's brother-in-law, to watch for any movement of guns out of Suhl to people who were unfriendly to the CPE. Maybe a letter from Pat had arrived.

"Ma'am, did the general say why he wanted to see us?"

"No, but he did ask if you were doing anything really vital. I told him your crew could probably keep working for a while without you. You've done a good job of training them."

"Thank you for the compliment. You're right, ma'am. Benno and Jochen can run the train without me and I would bet Cooper can finish this new engine. Bringing in Bill Frank as an advisor was a great idea. But I hope General Kagg doesn't want you to send me anywhere. The company might get called for active duty shortly, and I sure don't want it to go without me. You'll need me for that."

Captain Pitre gave her surroundings a somewhat sour examination. "Mr. Hatfield, from the look of things, we're not going anywhere until winter's over. Except to the regimental headquarters, and here we are."


Through the closed door of the office Anse could hear the rumble of the general's voice. That was no surprise. Kagg seemed to have only one volume setting: loud. Anse looked out the window to the outside. "Ma'am, was anyone else going to be at our meeting with the general?"

"Not that I know of. Why? Does it make a difference?"

"Not to me, but, stay calm. Your friend and mine, Captain von Dantz, is walking across the parade ground. And it looks like he's coming here."

Anse could sense the sudden stiffness in Captain Pitre. That von Dantz was both arrogant and incompetent was an opinion, he was sure, the two shared. The fact that von Dantz refused to accept the idea of women in the army, much less a woman officer, automatically insured there were going to be problems between him and Captain Elizabeth Pitre. Anse's problems with the Pomeranian mercenary captain were more personal and had arisen out of a dispute over the captain's baggage being crushed on the train Anse had commanded.

Luckily the door to Kagg's office opened just as von Dantz entered the building. As the general's clerk came out the door they could see Kagg himself, who was walking toward the door, waving his hand for them to come in.

"Captain Pitre, Herr Hatfield, come in. It is good of you to make time to see me."

Kagg's English, though heavily accented, was fluent. Anse was pretty sure that was one of the reasons he'd been sent to Grantville. The Swedish general also seemed to be punctilious about courtesy. Whether that was because of his own personality or blunt orders from Gustavus Adolphus, Anse didn't know. Probably both, he suspected.

The general spotted von Dantz coming through the outer office. "Come in, all of you. Captain von Dantz, you know Captain Pitre and Warrant Officer Hatfield. Captain Pitre, Herr Hatfield, I know you have met Captain von Dantz."

"Ja, I have met Fräulein Pitre and Hatfield, General."

"That is Captain Pitre," Kagg said curtly. "You should remember that you and she are the same rank and use proper military courtesy at all times. And Warrant Officer Hatfield should be addressed as Mister or Herr Hatfield. You should think of him the same as one of our master gunners. You do not address them by their bare last name, I hope."

Von Dantz turned red. "Captain, Herr Hatfield."

Anse thought that was as close to an apology as they were going to get. It was not an invariable rule, by any means, but he'd found that lots of Germans who enjoyed the "von" business seemed to find it well-nigh impossible to be courteous to those they considered their social inferiors.

Once they entered the general's office, Kagg said: "Now everyone sit down, and I can tell you why you are all here."

As the three found seats and the general moved behind his desk, Anse realized there was another man in the room, leaning against a side wall. It was the big Swedish lieutenant whom Anse had seen with Kagg several times. They'd arrived together, Anse thought. He was a bit older than Kagg, but had the same hard-as-nails look of a professional soldier.

If the seventeenth-century Swedish army worked about the same way the uptime American army of Hatfield's experience did—always an uncertain proposition—then this unnamed lieutenant would serve General Kagg as one of his staff officers. It was hard to tell, however, just exactly what authority he possessed. No down-time army that Anse was familiar with used the same tight and clear system of ranks that uptime armies did. Generals and colonels commanded specific units, as a rule. But down-timers used the terms "captain" and "lieutenant" very loosely. It was not uncommon for "lieutenants" to command "captains," for instance, since the term "lieutenant" might really signify direct subordinate to the big cheese, rather than very junior officer. But exactly how and when the authority of a staff officer superseded that of a line commander was something Anse still hadn't been able to figure out.

Once everyone was seated, Kagg spoke. "Captain Pitre, Captain von Dantz, Herr Hatfield, we have a problem. General Jackson has received reports that the gun-makers of Suhl are continuing to sell their products to anyone who will buy them, including the enemies of our king. He arranged for Patrick Johnson to look into it. Just this morning his report arrived and it looks like the earlier reports were true. He tells us that large shipments of weapons are leaving Suhl, going by way of Schleusingen. Toward the south. And I can assure you they are not being sent to General Banér in the Upper Palatinate."

"What do you expect? They are Franconians," Captain von Dantz interrupted. "Catholics. We should send troops to hang the traitors. Suhl is in the territory given to the Americans, and all have sworn allegiance to King Gustavus Adolphus. In Pomerania we know how to deal with people like that."

"Not exactly." Elizabeth Pitre's voice was mild and calm. "True, its citizens have sworn allegiance. But that is because Suhl—the city—like Badenburg, became a state in the N.U.S. by its own free will. That was months before the captain general's agreement with President Stearns concerning Franconia."

She raised one eyebrow. "Not to mention that you, as a Pomeranian, surely misspoke in saying that the town is Catholic when it is in fact Lutheran." Her implication was that if she herself, as a lapsed Catholic, knew this much, surely the other captain should know more.

Von Dantz took the bait. "Suhl's city council became a `state' of your N.U.S. under false pretenses. It is not an imperial city. The council had no legal right to declare itself independent from the Saxon administrators of the Henneberg inheritance." His disapproval of "do-it-yourself" politics was plain.

Kagg frowned. "Captain von Dantz, if you would let me finish, I will tell you what has been decided. Your job is to carry out the orders you receive. And I do not want to have to remind you again that you are serving with American troops and the New United States is not—directly—part of our king's territory. Neither, since last fall, is Franconia. So politeness toward our hosts is the order of the day."

Anse decided he liked the Swedish general. But he could see where this was headed, and started a mental packing list.

"Now, before I was interrupted, I was about to tell you I have been in contact with General Jackson and President Stearns. They both agree that we need to send some people to Suhl. A small investigative party, however, not a large military force. There is already an American administration set up for Franconia proper. It is headquartered in Würzburg. But since Suhl is a state of the N.U.S. rather than part of Catholic Franconia, Stearns' people in Würzburg have no authority there. In any event, our group will be only looking for evidence of gun trafficking with the CPE's enemies."

Kagg turned to Pitre. "Because of Suhl's status, I do not want to send a large expedition, or a purely Swedish one, or even one under Swedish command, although"—he nodded toward von Dantz—"there will be someone along from our army. There is already a garrison in the town, should more troops prove necessary. The king placed it there before Suhl chose to join the N.U.S."

His expression became very bland. "Negotiations between the Swedes and Suhl's city council in regard to its removal have been . . . protracted. Thus far, President Stearns has not seen fit to make its removal a priority. But we all feel that an American soldier should be officially in command, for political reasons. General Jackson specifically recommended Warrant Officer Hatfield. Captain Pitre, I would appreciate it if you would release him temporarily from his duties with your unit and loan him to me."

Captain Pitre frowned. "Well, certainly, if General Jackson says so. Although I'm not quite sure why he'd want someone from TacRail."

Kagg shrugged. "Nor am I. From what I understand, there is no early prospect of creating a rail line to Suhl. Not over that part of the Thueringerwald, certainly! But that was his suggestion." He turned to Anse. "Mr. Hatfield, do you have any objection? If nothing else, you can visit your brother-in-law who is already residing in Suhl."

Anse was surprised, as well as impressed, that Kagg already knew that much in the way of the personal details of the American soldiers he'd be working with. "Of course, General Kagg. Captain Pitre, I'd like to take a couple of my own men with me."

"Let me guess. You want Private Schultz and Corporal Rau?"

"Yes, ma'am. Jochen Rau is the best man around for finding out what's going on. And if we have to open any locked doors he has a lot of experience. Wili Schultz could help be a cover story, too, if we need one. His sister is going to marry Pat. He could be going to check out the wedding arrangements and to see Pat's business. I know that would leave you with only Toeffel as a trained driver, but Jim Cooper can drive an engine. Toeffel and he have worked together before. And in a pinch Chief Schwartz could drive short hauls."

"All right, Mr. Hatfield. But only those two, no more, and I'd like you back before the first of March."

Kagg nodded. "Better still, if you can send three of your own soldiers. In that case, I will only send Nils"—he waved at the lieutenant—"with Captain von Dantz. As I said, I'd rather avoid any larger Swedish presence in Suhl than we need, given the garrison that's already there." For a moment—a very brief moment—he seemed slightly embarrassed. "I'm afraid there's something of a history of ill-will in Franconia toward the Swedish army.

"That will make a party of five," the general continued. "That is a perfect number; enough to frighten off most bandits and not enough to attract attention. Nils, step over here and meet Herr Hatfield." The last statement was to the big lieutenant who was holding up the office wall.

"Herr Hatfield, I would like to introduce Lieutenant Nils Ivarsson. He has been with me since I became a soldier."

Hatfield measured the Swede with his eyes, as he extended his hand. Ivarsson was a little taller than six feet and looked strong as a bull. "Pleased to meet you."

"Ja, I am happy to meet you also. Captain von Dantz has spoken of you often." There might have been a twinkle in Ivarsson's eyes. Anse had a feeling the big Swede was not a member of the captain's fan club.


January 14, 1633

Anse looked up in surprise. It was early in the morning for one of the young Germans whom Ed Piazza had started assembling as part of his staff to be hand-delivering him a note. Or for anyone to be delivering a note at all. Ed's staff were no slouches. The secretary of state had several uptimers working with him also, of course, but he'd made it a point to incorporate down-timers as soon and as extensively as possible.

Anse didn't know this one by name, although he recognized him. A former student at the university at Jena, he thought. Eddie Junker—that was his name. Piazza tended to favor recruits from there, partly because Jena was not much more than fifteen miles away, and partly because Grantville had made it a point to develop relations with Jena that were as close as their relations with Badenburg.

Anse wasn't privy to the discussions in the inner circles, but he knew the general plan was to develop Jena into central Germany's premier educational and medical center. It made sense. Given the nature of its West Virginian topography, there simply wasn't room in Grantville—in the whole Ring of Fire, for that matter—to expand all that much. The town was already jammed with immigrants, and people were starting to build on hillside areas that Anse himself thought were questionable at best.

As he opened the note, Anse couldn't help grinning. However much the down-timers in the area were adapting to American custom, in many ways, the reverse was also happening. The note was just a three-way folded piece of paper, but the embossed wax seal keeping it closed was as ornate and fancy as you could ask for.

The message was short, to the point—and surprising.


Dear Mr. Hatfield:

The Secretary of State requests that you consult with him regarding your upcoming expedition to Suhl. Today at 14:00, if possible.

Jamie Lee Swisher

for Ed Piazza


Anse folded the note back up and nodded to the courier. "Tell him I'll be there, as requested." A moment later the young man was gone.

In some ways, of course, Ed Piazza was not adapting. The secretary of state could just as easily have required Anse to show up when he wanted to see him, and no "if possible" about it. But one of the reasons Piazza had made such a successful and popular high school principal for so many years was his meticulous attention to simple courtesy.

Anse himself was too old to know personally, but rumor had it that even when Piazza had been chewing out some wayward student, he'd been as polite as possible. Which Anse himself certainly wouldn't have been. Do as I tell you, you little snot, or I'll whup your ass was more his style in such affairs.

"Wonder what it's about?" he mused.


He found himself wondering a lot more, after he was ushered into Piazza's private office that afternoon. In fact, it was all he could do to keep his eyebrows from crawling onto his scalp.

Piazza wasn't there alone. Also in the office—a bit crammed, in fact, since it wasn't all that big—were President Stearns, General Jackson, and Rebecca Abrabanel. Mike Stearns was smiling blandly; Jackson was frowning. The solemn look on Becky's face made it clear that she was here in her official capacity as the national security adviser, not Mike's wife.

"Have a seat, Anse," said Piazza. As soon as he'd done so, the secretary of state nodded at Stearns.

"As you've probably figured out, my invitation was something of a subterfuge. It's really Mike who wants to talk to you."

"Sure is," Anse heard Jackson mutter. Becky shot him a look that seemed to combine reproof with exasperation.

Stearns chuckled softly. "As you'll soon discover, there is dissension and dispute in the top ranks of what passes for our august government. Here's the thing, Anse." Mike nodded toward Jackson. "Frank here thinks what von Dantz suggested that Kagg ought to do in Suhl is just fine. Go down there and hammer any bastards who are selling guns to our enemies. But Becky has strong reservations about the project. So does Melissa Mailey, for what it's worth. Between the two of them, they've convinced me that the situation is a lot more complicated than it looks."

"What's `complicated' about it?" demanded Jackson. "Treason is treason."

Anse was surprised to see Becky almost snarling at him. The young Sephardic woman, in his experience, was usually imperturbable and serene.

"Idiot words that mean nothing!" she snapped. "What does `treason'—or `loyalty'—mean in Germanies that are not a nation and never have been? And loyalty to a Swedish king? Are we speaking of the same Swedes who conquered the area and behaved every bit as abominably as Tilly's army or Wallenstein's in the territories they occupied?"

Jackson looked mulish. "Loyalty to us. Suhl is a state in the N.U.S. One of our own states. By choice. It should be living under our laws and making everyone in the town do the same."

But Becky wasn't about to let up on him. "So what if there were no great massacres like Magdeburg? There were massacres enough carried out by Gustavus' army south of the Thueringerwald, on a smaller scale, be sure of it. And all the rest! Rapes, arson, plundering. Name the crime and they committed it. Especially in the Catholic areas, of course, but the Swedes were none too gentle in Protestant areas either."

"Enough already," said Mike calmly. Becky subsided, still glaring at Frank Jackson.

Mike looked at Anse. "Here's the point, Warrant Officer Hatfield."

The formality was unusual, coming from Mike Stearns. He was making clear that he was speaking as the President, now. Anse sat up a little straighter. What was coming, he knew, amounted to his marching orders—and, push came to shove, Mike was the boss here, not Frank Jackson.

"The people in Suhl have been making guns and other weapons for centuries. And, for centuries, they've been selling them to anyone who was willing to pay. It's the local custom—hallowed tradition, if you will. Not to mention that it's perfectly legal under the laws they've lived with all their lives, and we've scarcely had enough time to undertake extensive reeducation in regard to American statutory definitions. If nothing else, Becky and Melissa have convinced me that we can't just go charging in there like a bull in a china shop, expecting that anyone who lives there will see the situation in terms of concepts like `loyalty' and `treason.'"

Seeming a bit exasperated, he ran fingers through his thick hair. "The truth is, Anse, not even Kagg thinks the issue is really a matter of loyalty or treason. What's really involved, from his point of view, is a simple matter of power politics. The Swedes conquered the region, and so now the Swedes have dibs on Suhl's guns. `To the victor belong the spoils' and all that stuff. Whether they are N.U.S. citizens or not. Further south, whether he's assigned the Franconians to N.U.S. administration, or not. We're damned lucky that Kagg is being more reasonable than von Dantz."

He gave Jackson a look that was not as unfriendly as Becky's, but wasn't any too admiring, either. "Why this fella—who did a tour of duty in Vietnam, just like you did—has so much trouble understanding that, I'm not sure. But what I do know is this: I don't intend for Grantville to run roughshod over another N.U.S. state. Suhl's people are our citizens, even if they still have a lot to learn about the differences between uptime and down-time ideas of citizenship and national loyalty."

Mike raised his hand and brought it down firmly on his desk. That was a variation on one of his most familiar gestures, which could range from a gentle tap of the fingers to a resounding slam. This one was about midway between.

"What's more," he said firmly, "I'm not going to let troubles develop in Suhl that could spill over into our Franconian territories. Whatever Gustavus had in mind when he handed over Franconia for us to administer, I do not intend our rule there to be one of conquerors. I can't see any point in it. If for no other reason, because with a war likely to break out between us and the French, we won't have the soldiers to spare to occupy Franconia with more than a few small garrisons in some of the major towns. If we don't get the cooperation of the people who live there—and get it pretty soon—we're going to have a nightmare on our hands. There's no law of geography or geology that I know of that says that `quagmires' are restricted to Asia."

His eyes came back to Anse. "That's why I specifically instructed Frank to recommend you for this assignment when Kagg raised it with us. First, because I think you're levelheaded. And, second, because I'm hoping that since you're assigned to TacRail you won't seem as threatening a figure as some other type of soldier might be, once you get there. You're essentially a military engineer, not one of the guys who specializes in hitting people over the head."

Again, he ran fingers through his hair. "Ah, hell, Anse, I know I'm handing you a mess on a plate. Just do the best you can with it—and don't assume the Swedes know what they're doing. When it comes right down to it, remember, we are the people in charge in Suhl. Not Gustavus Adolphus' mercenaries."

Seeing the look on Anse's face, Mike chuckled. "Yeah, I know. Easier said than done—when they've got most of the muscle. Especially muscle like von Dantz, a good chunk of which seems to reside between his ears and who isn't likely to respond well to having you in charge. I'm sending along someone to help, though. Noelle Murphy."

Seeing the look that now came to Anse's face, Mike and Becky laughed out loud. Even Frank Jackson grinned.

"She's an accountant—and she's planning to become a nun!" Anse protested.

Becky waggled her hand. "Maybe yes, maybe no, as to the last part. She hasn't decided, I don't believe. But she's very smart, and"—again, that sharp look at Jackson—"unlike some people, she's actually studied the situation."

Orders were orders. Anse made only one last minimal objection. "What's her cover story? I mean, I can't very well . . ."

Finally, Becky's usually serene countenance made its appearance. "Do not be concerned. I have managed the thing."


On his way back—none too cheerfully—Anse contemplated his new assignment.

There were too many damn layers involved, was the main thought that came to him.

Gustavus Adolphus, Mike, Kagg, Noelle, von Dantz, the garrison commander, the Suhl city council, their militia captain.

And him.

Years ago, his wife Jo had taken him to a party where the hostess served something called an "eight layer chocolate dessert." He'd only taken a sliver, but even so. Cake layers, tied together with chocolate whipped cream, with some kind of chocolate-raspberry jelly, with some kind of chocolate-and-cream-cheese spread. One layer oozing into the next. Worst heartburn of his life. He'd never run into anything like it again.

At least, not until he had started to try to figure out who was in charge of what in these New United States. The overlapping layers of authority for this project gave him a mental indigestion at least as bad as the physical indigestion that incredible cake had caused.

It had some kind of a German name, too, now that he thought about it.


January 16, 1633

Anse looked over the party gathered in Henry Johnson's living room. Jochen Rau was seated near the door with his pack by his feet. Benno Toeffel had stopped by for any final instructions and was standing talking quietly with Rau. Henry himself and Ursula Eckhardt, Pat's fiancée, were bustling around carrying packs of food for the trip from the kitchen. The combined Schultz and Eckhardt children were carrying the food out to the wagon. The only one missing was Wili Schultz. He and his wife Dora had wandered upstairs to say goodbye.

"Uncle Anse," Suse Eckhardt called from the door. "There are two women outside and they're asking for you."

Going out on the porch, Anse found a woman in her late thirties standing with another woman, somewhere in her early or mid-twenties. Behind them was a handcart being pushed by a man Anse didn't know, but thought was a down-timer. The handcart seemed full of what looked like luggage.

Anse recognized the younger woman. She was Noelle Murphy.

"Are you Anse Hatfield?" asked the older woman.

When he admitted he was, she continued. "I'm Gaylynn Reardon. I heard you were going to Suhl and since my husband Gary works for Pat Johnson I'd like to tag along. My friend Noelle here agreed to come along with me. So, Mr. Hatfield, have you got room in your wagon?"

Normally, Anse would have been inclined to refuse. But. whether or not Gaylynn Reardon's reason for traveling to Suhl made any sense—or was even genuine—he knew perfectly well that Becky Stearns was using it as an excuse to quietly insert Noelle Murphy into the expedition.

"We're ready to pull out as soon as we finish loading the wagon. I hope you've packed properly, Mrs. Reardon. It's a pretty rough road once we get past Badenburg, until we hit the trade route, and we're traveling in winter."

"I'm already packed, and so's Noelle." She jerked her thumb over her shoulder, pointing to the handcart. "Our stuff's in there, ready to go. Everyone knows you're leaving today. I spent four years in the West Virginia National Guard and winter maneuvers were no challenge."

She glanced at her younger friend, and smiled. "As for Noelle, she's a lot tougher than she looks."

Anse did his best not to let his skepticism show. Leaving aside Noelle Murphy's maybe-aspirations to become a nun, there was nothing about the young woman's appearance to suggest she was any sort of sturdy frontier type. Noelle wasn't frail. But she was of average height, rather slender, and her sandy blonde hair and moderately good looks fit a lady accountant a lot better than they did a reincarnation of Calamity Jane.

But it was a done deal, so Anse didn't argue the matter. "Come on into the house, then," he said, "and get something hot to drink. We'll leave within the hour."

He turned to Wili's older son, who was tending the horses. "Wendel, help these ladies pack their stuff on the wagon."

Going back inside, he found that Wili and his wife had rejoined the group. Dora Schultz came over and, taking his collar in her hands, pulled him down to look him straight in the eye. "I want your promise. You will take care of Wili, and stay out of trouble."

"Sure, Dora. We're just going to look over Pat's shop and make some wedding arrangements."

"Ha, you are a terrible liar. You think Wili can hide anything from me. You just be sure I get him back in one piece. And you better come back whole, too. Men all act like little boys, sometimes."

"Speaking of coming back whole," Henry Johnson interjected. "I have a couple of things that might help to that end. Jochen, here, I want you to have this."

Henry held a revolver out to Rau. "That's a 1917 Smith and Wesson. It shoots the same ammo as Anse and Wili's pistols. I packed five-hundred rounds of .45ACP in the wagon and some half-moon clips so you can practice along the way. And because you need a long gun, I want you to have this Browning `Sweet-Sixteen.' I packed three hundred rounds of 16-gauge buckshot in the wagon, too. Those are gifts, Corporal Rau. They are yours to keep."

"Ha, just going to see Pat's shop," sniffed Dora. "Come, Ursula. We go to the kitchen und let the boys play with the toys." Dora led Ursula out of the room.

Just then Gaylynn Reardon and Noelle Murphy came through the door. "Hello, Mr. Johnson. Are you about ready to put these fellows on the road, Mr. Hatfield? The sooner we get started, the sooner we get to Suhl."

Whether or not the woman was really that eager to be reunited with her husband, she was certainly playing the part.

"Yes, they're all ready to go," interjected Henry. "Except for waiting for Captain von Dantz and Lieutenant Ivarsson. So you have time for a cup of coffee."

"Mr. Johnson, that's the best offer I've had all day. A cup of coffee would be fine. Oh, Mr. Hatfield, in case you were wondering, my .30-30 is on the wagon and I've taken a deer with it every winter since I was thirteen years old, so I can hold my own if we have to fight."

He noticed that she didn't make any mention of Noelle's proficiency with firearms. Anse knew that Noelle had grown up in West Virginia, but he had a strong suspicion she did not and never had shared any of Gaylynn's tomboy proclivities.

After handing Gaylynn a mug of coffee, Henry waved Anse to the side for a private word. "Remember what I told you last night. Pat needs a contract to make rifles for the army. This business I hear about the people in Suhl selling guns outside the CPE is bound to make some of the big mucky-mucks in the government look to other places to buy guns."

"I'm sure Pat would have nothing to do with trading guns with the French. Hell, Hank. It might have been a reason to deny contracts, uptime. Here it seems to be standard practice. No one mucky-muckier than Frank Jackson would even wince, anyway."

Hank shook his head. "Look around. The French aren't our only enemies. Ferdinand II, the Holy Roman Emperor, will have another go at us as soon as he can. So will Maximilian of Bavaria. I agree Pat is smart enough to avoid shipping guns to any of them, but if other gun makers in Suhl are shipping to our enemies it's going to make it hard to get a contract for any factory in Suhl. You're going to have to find out where the source is and make sure the government stops this trade as quick as possible. Shoot the treacherous bastards, if you have to."

"Sure, Hank."

Anse saw no point in getting into the complexities. He wouldn't be at all surprised to find that most uptimers shared Hank's opinion. It had been fairly obvious in the course of his interview with Stearns that General Jackson did, after all. Truth be told, Anse was rather inclined that way himself. But the cautions given him by Mike and Becky Stearns made him unwilling to come to any conclusions until he got down there himself. He had a bad feeling that the situation in Suhl was going to be the political equivalent of "some assembly required."


The party pulled out an hour and a half later. Captain von Dantz had been a bit late. Henry's old farm wagon, with its rubber shod car wheels, was driven by Wili, with Mrs. Reardon riding beside him. Wili had his pump shotgun propped against the seat beside him and Gaylynn had her rifle lying in her lap. Jochen Rau was riding on the back with his new shotgun across his knees. Rau, who was a bit of a conservative about his weapons, still had his long knife and wheel-lock pistol hanging from his belt, but the big Smith and Wesson revolver was now holstered on his right hip.

Ivarsson was riding a large horse beside the wagon and talking to Rau. He had tied the two baggage horses he and the captain had arrived with to the rear of the wagon, for remounts if needed. Anse noted that the Swedish lieutenant looked like an arsenal. He had two pistols in his sash, two more in his boot tops and another pair in saddle holsters. In addition he had a long heavy saber and a brand-new SRG carbine hanging from the back of his saddle.

Captain von Dantz, who was riding a bit ahead of the wagon, was the lightest armed of the group. With only a saber and a single pistol, he looked almost unarmed compared to Ivarsson.

Anse reviewed his own armament. The Remington auto loading shotgun was riding nicely in the saddle scabbard, and the Colt automatic on his belt was balanced by two double ammo pouches and the belt knife on his left side. The small dagger in his right boot was riding comfortably, but might be a problem if he had to walk any distance.

To his surprise, Noelle Murphy had dredged up a horse somewhere and was riding it, adequately if with no great expertise. He wouldn't have thought the woman had ever been on a horse in her life. To all appearances, she was completely unarmed. But the heavy winter clothing she was wearing could have easily concealed a small handgun, and Anse was beginning to suspect that Noelle Murphy was someone who was often full of surprises. So who knew?

The road was well maintained and heavily traveled, so the group made good time. Twice they were passed by trucks from Grantville on their way to Badenburg, and once by one returning.

Captain von Dantz rode up to a position just in front of Anse. He was scowling as he watched one of the trucks receding into the distance.

"If we had taken one of the army trucks as far as Badenburg, we would already be on the road to Suhl, Herr Hatfield. This waste of time is poor planning on your part."

Anse kept his tone of voice even and level. "Captain, this leg of our little jaunt is just to settle the load in. We can check and see how everything is riding when we get to Badenburg and stop and fix anything that goes wrong. If we had started from Badenburg we'd be stopping in the forest."

That caused von Dantz's scowl to darken. "I am also not happy with you letting those women come along. They are going to slow us down. I am sure General Kagg did not authorize that."

Anse was tempted to point out that the expedition was happening under the auspices of the New United States, not the Swedish garrison that the N.U.S. had permitted to be stationed on N.U.S. soil. So it didn't really matter whether Kagg approved or not.

But, for better or worse, he was still trying to keep the peace. So he simply said, "To tell you the truth, I'm not too happy with them coming along myself. But Mrs. Reardon was determined to rejoin her husband and her friend Ms. Murphy insisted on accompanying her. It was either take them with us or find their bodies along the road some place."

"How would that have been a great loss? Herr Hatfield, you are going to have to learn to weigh the value of people." He spurred his horse forward into a trot.

"She's worth about ten of you, I figure," Anse muttered to himself, as he watched the captain tiring his horse needlessly.

"You should not insult ladies," came an unexpected, heavily accented voice from behind him.

Anse twisted in the saddle and saw that Lieutenant Ivarsson had ridden up while he was watching the captain. Unlike Anse himself, the Swedish officer was obviously an expert horseman. Anse had never heard him coming. He raised his eyebrows.

"Ten times nothing is nothing, Herr Hatfield. Simple mathematics."

Anse chuckled. "I like your arithmetic, Lieutenant. May I take it you are no more impressed with Captain von Dantz than I am?"

Ivarsson shrugged. "An army makes do with what it has." He seemed on the verge of adding something, but didn't do so. Instead he changed the subject. "Since you are in charge of our little caravan, were you planning to stop in Badenburg or push on until nightfall?"

"I thought we'd only stop if we needed to adjust the loads. We have—what?—forty-five or fifty miles to Suhl? I was figuring three or four days."

"That sounds about right. I would recommend we keep a sharp watch when we camp for the night. Our horses will be tempting to any local thieves. I will stand a watch."

"Well, I wasn't planning on asking the captain. So with five of us we can switch off every two hours. Or do you think we should double up?"

"Five? Oh, you want the older woman to stand a watch. She does seem competent, but I think we should double up, as you say, once we get well into the Thueringerwald. There have been reports of bandits in the area between here and Suhl. Or it could simply be disgruntled residents, acting like bandits. There were undoubtedly some people not too happy about turning into part of the New United States when you `slid' the Wettins' duchy out from under them."

Anse chuckled. He liked that way of describing it. "What about tonight we split the watch five ways, and the next two nights you and Rau take the first watch and Wili and I do the second?"

"Yes, that will work and we can let the lady rest. Oh, I was talking to Rau. Was he really a house breaker before he became a soldier?"

Anse laughed. "Breaking into houses is the least of Jochen's skills. He's a better tracker than I am, and can sneak up on a cat. The man is amazing."

The big lieutenant shook his head. "And you trained him to run that little thing, the locomotive. Seems a waste. He should be scouting for the army. Is that the right name, `locomotive,' the thing that pulls the carts on the rails?"

"Yes, that's what it's called. You'd be surprised what that little thing can pull."

The conversation soon meandered into a technical discussion on the advantages of rail traffic over wagon transport, and how the railroad would make an army less dependent on foraging.


January 17, 1633

They stopped for the night a few miles past Badenburg. There were no incidents, as Anse expected given their proximity to the town. The worst problem they faced was the bitter cold, with such a clear sky. The temperature was well below freezing. Fortunately, they'd all dressed properly for the climate.

Less than an hour after they started forward again the next morning, Noelle Murphy brought her horse alongside Anse's. He was pretty sure she'd timed her arrival so that Captain von Dantz was up ahead a ways, well out of hearing range.

May as well get started, Anse thought.

"Okay, Ms. Murphy. Since I gather you're my expert adviser, please advise."

Noelle winced. "Insofar as jury-rigged cram courses in `N.U.S. Constitution' and `Franconian affairs' make me an expert—which they don't, not hardly. But I'll do the best I can."

She took a long, slow breath, exhaling a visible cloud of moisture into the clear, freezing air.

"We might as well start by being honest about the situation, Mr. Hatfield. When Gustavus Adolphus reached a deal with Mike Stearns that the New United States would assume responsibility for the administration of Franconia, there wasn't anybody at all in Grantville who knew much about it. Truth be told, there weren't a half-dozen people in town who had ever even been to anyplace in Franconia, and those had mostly been there in the military and lived on American bases. Those people thought it was the northern part of Bavaria—Upper Franconia, Middle Franconia, and Lower Franconia. Which it was, uptime. But which it is not, down-time. Bavaria hasn't expanded to include it yet. It wouldn't for a long time yet to come in our original time line and may never in this universe. The rest of the Grantvillers had not even heard of Franconia. That includes me."

Anse grinned. "Me, too."

She gave him a quick, flickering smile. "My training's as an accountant, not a combination historian-sociologist and, I guess, Superspy Juniorette."

That made Anse laugh. Up ahead, he saw Captain von Dantz glance back at the sound.

Frowning disapprovingly, of course. As if there were any danger of drawing the attention of bandits this close to Badenburg! Anywhere within two days' ride of Grantville, for that matter. By now, bandits had learned to steer well clear of the Ring of Fire, where just a few months earlier a large expedition of Wallenstein's Croat raiders had gotten torn to pieces.

Noelle continued. "I've seen some of the correspondence that's gone back and forth between Mr. Salatto and Mr. Piazza. The first headache Mr. Salatto and his team faced, as soon as they got to Würzberg, was figuring out what `Franconia' meant in the first place. It turns out it's a loose and slippery geographical term—especially when you have to factor in what the Swedes think about the issue. One of the first things Mr. Salatto and Mr. Piazza agreed on—President Stearns, too, I imagine—was that from the context of the deal reached with Gustavus Adolphus it was pretty clear that the king of Sweden did not mean for Grantville to mess around in the territories of his influential Protestant allies, even though they were clearly in Franconia, geographically speaking. That meant we had to steer clear of the imperial city of Nürnberg; the margraves of Ansbach and Bayreuth, et cetera and so forth."

Anse grunted. "In short, what `Franconia' means to Gustavus Adolphus is really `the parts of Franconia that were ruled by Catholic church officials before I conquered them.'"

"Exactly. What the king of Sweden wanted us to handle were the dioceses of Würzburg and Bamberg and the abbey of Fulda—even though, to a fussy geographer, Fulda is only sort of marginally Franconian. But since it was definitely Catholic and sort of between Franconia and Hesse-Kassel, President Stearns decided that Gustavus Adolphus intended the N.U.S. to take over there. So we did. By last November, the N.U.S. picked out its administrative teams, with Steve Salatto in overall charge, and President Stearns and Secretary of State Piazza sent them on their way."

He sighed, took off his cap, and scratched his scalp. "This is going to be a mess, isn't it?"

"Sure is. Like I said, Mr. Piazza showed me some of the reports Steve Salatto sent in. Our administration teams found out very soon that there weren't many people who had been living in Franconia during the winter of 1631-1632 who were likely to ever join a King Gustavus Adolphus fan club. It didn't seem to matter at all whether they were Catholic or Protestant, or whether they lived in the villages or the big towns. At a rough guess, at least ninety percent of the population of Franconia hate the Swedes. They were every bit as rough on people when they came through as any of Tilly or Wallenstein's armies."

Anse hissed. "Rough on people" was a euphemism for what, uptime, would be a roster of every major felony on the books, starting with murder, rape and arson and working your way down. "That bad?"

Noelle started to reply but had to break off to calm down her horse. The beast had gotten a little jittery about something. God knows what. Anse Hatfield wasn't really much more experienced with horses than the young Catholic woman.

"Well, I guess not quite," she said, finally, once the horse settled down. "At least, so far as we know there were no major massacres. Certainly nothing on the scale of what Tilly's army did at Magdeburg. But it was plenty bad enough—and nobody down there has forgotten, or stopped holding a grudge. Real, serious, personal grudges, too. Not just the usual `they made me convert to somebody else's religion' grudges. There were the `they burned my Ma as a witch' grudges; the `somebody's army stole all our horses' grudges; `the Swedes devastated our property when they passed through in 1631-1632 on their way to crossing the Lech' grudges."

"In Suhl, too? They're mostly Lutherans themselves, I thought. Just like the Swedes."

"Yes, they are. For that matter, you can argue till the cows come home whether Suhl is really part of Franconia or Thuringia in the first place. But it doesn't matter, Mr. Hatfield."

"Call me Anse, please."

"Okay. Look, Anse, here's what I've finally figured out about this so-called `war of religion.' Almost every army involved in this war is mostly made up of mercenaries, including Gustavus Adolphus' army. The truth is, you'll find plenty of Protestant soldiers serving in `Catholic' armies, and vice versa. As often as not, religion is just an excuse for a mercenary army to do what it would have done anyway, once it enters territory it considers conquered from the enemy—and their definition of `enemy' is going to be just as sloppy as everything else. From what I can tell, most of this war is just one plundering expedition after another. I think Gustavus Adolphus keeps a tighter rein on his soldiers than most commanders do. But that isn't saying much, and even that gets really frayed when he's just marching through a territory on his way somewhere else."

This, at least, was an area that Anse felt more familiar with. "Well, yeah, that's a given. Not a one of these armies has a `logistics train' that isn't made up of spit, baling wire and chewing gum. In fact, that's the problem us TacRail people are trying to solve. To a point, anyway. Without a good logistics train, an army on the march has no choice but to do what they call `foraging.'"

Noelle's expression got very tight, almost pinched. "What a fancy, antiseptic term."

"Ain't it?" replied Anse, grinning coldly. "Anybody uptime tried to engage in such-like `foraging' at home, they'd be looking at a minimum twenty-year sentence at hard labor. A fair number would be on death row, if West Virginia still had a death penalty."

Noelle shook her head. "I've always been glad West Virginia gave up the death penalty, back in 1976. But sometimes . . ."

Anse shrugged, being careful to keep the motion minimal. Truth be told, he wasn't any too sure how good a control he had over his own horse, especially traveling across snow-covered dirt roads. "It's a moot point, here. I know Mike's just fighting right now to get all the down-timers in the N.U.S. to agree to restrict the death penalty to murder."

Noelle got that pinched look on her face again. At such times, Anse didn't have any trouble at all picturing her as a nun. That might just be his own prejudices at work, though. Unlike most West Virginians, Anse didn't belong to any church. But his background was old-time Protestant, and he tended to share the image of nuns as pale-faced, tight-lipped, mean-spirited old crones who disapproved of anything and everything.

Which wasn't fair, certainly not applied to Noelle. She might have the goofiest mother in creation, by all accounts, but at least so far she'd struck Anse as a pleasant and levelheaded young woman. She was rather pretty, too.

"Keep talking," he said softly. "This is a help."

"Well, the gist of what Mr. Salatto told Mr. Piazza in his reports was that there doesn't appear to be any reason why the Franconians should like the Swedes any more than they do any of the other armies that have gone trampling through Franconia during the past fifteen years. Fortunately, we—the uptimers, I mean—do have some legacy of goodwill in the Suhl area, because it was our people who defeated that expedition Wallenstein sent into the area a while back. That doesn't extend into Franconia itself, however. So the N.U.S. administrators have to take this into account in their policies, which they are doing. They don't talk about Gustavus Adolphus very much. Just sort of leave him on a back burner, so to speak."

Anse grimaced a little. "I can understand the logic, but . . . That might backfire, you know. When you come right down to it, `guv'mint' means `we're the guys with the big guns' and the truth is the N.U.S. has hardly any guns at all down there in Franconia, big, small or medium-sized. If the crap hits the fan—pardon my language—we're going to have to call on Gustavus Adolphus to bail us out."

"Let's hope it doesn't come to that." Noelle shook her head. "It might, though. To make things worse, when the N.U.S. took over the administration of Franconia, the economy was shot. Conditions were a lot worse than in southern Thuringia, where things were bad enough. The only industry that was still doing well on the south slope of the Thuringenwald was munitions, in places like Suhl, Schmalkalden, and Schleusingen. Which aren't exactly Franconia, I remind you. And even there, although Suhl itself is one of our states now, most of the arms manufacturers—maybe all of them—just don't see this as an `us against them' business. They'll sell to anyone who has the money to buy, even if the guy is likely to use the stuff to invade the N.U.S. the next year. They seem to think that since somebody is probably going to invade the region no matter what they do, and they can't really predict in advance which side it'll be, they might as well make as much as they can from the war. Especially since it's pretty much the only good business going."

Again, she shook her head. "And that's not all. There are also a lot of people who weren't in Franconia during the winter of 1631-1632. That is, there are those Protestants who had gone into exile, mostly into Ansbach or Bayreuth or Nürnberg, after the Bishop of Würzburg started his re-Catholicization campaign, and who came tumbling back after the Swedes drove the bishop out. Some of them are demanding their own back—and some of them are demanding not only their own, but more, as compensation for all the pain and suffering they experienced. It's sort of like letting all the Cuban exiles in Miami go home and then trying to manage all the property claims that pop up in Cuba.

"Most of them hire lawyers. The lawyers have clerks. The clerks have apprentices. The N.U.S. administrators don't have three dozen uptimers total, counting the military attachés. At that—being honest—we're pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel. Small towns of thirty-five hundred people like Grantville just aren't prime material for all of a sudden running a government for nearly a million people, counting southern Thuringia as well as Franconia, especially when it wasn't even the county seat in the first place. And somebody has to stay home and keep things running there. Franconia is a sideshow, really. Anybody who takes a look at the comparative budgets for running Thuringia and running Franconia can figure that out."

Anse nodded. "Yeah, same old story. All the members of the N.U.S. Congress are from Thuringia, and like politicians anywhere, they think that their main job is to take care of their own constituents first. And, generally speaking, their constituents see eye-to-eye with them on the matter. Which means, until things in Franconia can settle down enough to hold elections—and figure out how Franconia fits in terms of Thuringia—they'll keep getting the short end of the stick. So how are Steve and his people handling it?"

"The first problem that Mr. Salatto and his teams have is to try to sort out which of the down-time Franconian administrators will be willing to work with them. Not support them, necessarily, but at least carry out orders and not deliberately undermine what they are trying to accomplish. That takes time, and they're still working at it. The main problem with finding local administrators to work with, of course, is that any Franconian official who does agree to work with them is in serious danger of being denounced as a collaborator and taken out by his enemies if, in a couple more years, it turns out that Gustavus Adolphus can't hold on to his conquests in Germany and the Habsburgs or Bavarians come back with a different slant on who should be running things."

"Can't really blame 'em, I guess," said Anse. "Self-preservation's about the most basic instinct there is. And it's not likely to be just them if things go pffftt! It'll be their wives and children, elderly parents." He sighed. "The way things seem to work in this day and age, probably even their servants would suffer for the decisions they take, if it all goes sour."

"It's helped a lot that the other Thuringian states that have joined the N.U.S. sent along a fair number of down-time lawyers and clerks to help out. It doesn't help at all that the Franconians consider Thuringians to be just as much `foreigners' as uptimers and Swedes and, overall, consider the N.U.S. to be just one more occupation force."

"Well, honest to God, what are we? Noelle, we are just one more occupation force. We may have better intentions than the others, but that's what we are."

He broke off, watching Captain von Dantz trotting his horse past them toward the front of the party. "Well. Some of us have better intentions."

The pinched look came back on Noelle's face. So strongly, in fact, that Anse involuntarily looked down at her hands, holding the reins. He was a little surprised to see that they were the smooth-skinned, rather delicate hands of a slender and attractive young woman. He'd been expecting to see heavy, gnarled fists. The sort that, arthritis be damned, hold and wield a great big ruler.

* * *

At noon, not far east of the town of Ilmenau, Anse called a halt to rest and water the horses and to have a quick lunch. As everyone else loosened the tack on the horses, Wili passed out the rations: dried hard sausage, cheese and bread, with a small apple for dessert.

"Hey this sausage is good," Gaylynn said at her first bite. "Wili, I want the recipe. Will you ask Mrs. Schultz to send it to me?"

"Ja, Dora loves it when people ask how she made food."

"You know that's mixed meat sausage, Gaylynn," Anse teased. "Bit of this and a bit of that. Venison, pork, beef—and horse, if I remember correctly."

"Nein, nicht beef. Und it is just a little horse."

"Well, whatever, it's good." Gaylynn answered. Anse noticed that the captain, however, put down his portion and ate only the cheese.

"Herr Hatfield, how long are we going to wait here?" von Dantz demanded. "We should be moving."

"I thought we would rest the horses for an hour." Anse pulled out his pocket watch. "We're about thirty minutes short of that."

"Remember, the general wants a report this year," said von Dantz sarcastically.

"Captain, the report will be a lot later if we have to walk to Suhl because our horses gave out."

"You should have brought a change of horses for the wagon, or left the wagon."

Anse restrained his temper. "And was the Swedish garrison in Grantville going to provide them? Look, my family has only three horses, these. Wili and I had to kill the former owners to get them. You might be used to traveling on other people's money, but we ain't. And the wagon is going because I want to bring something back from Suhl."

The captain got up and went to tend his horse, his shoulders stiff with anger.


That afternoon, traveling was much like it had been in the morning. The road wasn't up to the quality that was becoming standard around Grantville. But it was well marked, and the cold weather combined with plenty of travel close to Ilmenau had packed the snow into a hard surface.

Captain von Dantz was continually riding ahead. Anse, who had walked point a few times in Vietnam, was happy to leave the scouting to him. So it came as no surprise, in the late afternoon, to find von Dantz waiting, when the little convoy rounded a curve. "Herr Hatfield, there is a small village up ahead. We will spend the night there."

Anse studied the sky for a minute, then pulled out his watch. "Captain, I figure we still have a couple of hours traveling time. But if you don't want to sleep in a tent, we can stop."

Clearly the captain was primed for an argument. "You think we should press on?"

"No, in this case I think you're right. We should stop and get the horses under shelter. I'm not all that good at judging the weather, but it sure looks like we're going to get some more snow tonight. A barn to sleep in would be mighty welcome."

When they arrived at the village, though, Anse was surprised to find there were no separate barns. In a village of six houses, there was only one that had two stories, with the lower floor being a stable. All the rest were one-story with an attached lean-to providing shelter for what few animals the owners had. While four of the one-story houses had smoke coming from their chimneys, one was obviously unoccupied.

Someone in the village must have been keeping watch. As the travelers stopped, the door of the largest house opened and a prosperous looking man came out.

"Ah, Amerikaner," he said, after seeing the rubber tires on the wagon. "Ich bin der Schultheiss des Dorfs, Horst Stoltz. Sie möchten die Nacht bleiben, ja."

Anse, whose German had improved under Wili's tutoring, realized this was the head man of the village and he was asking if they needed a place to spend the night. A bit of bargaining and only mentioning the tents on the wagon twice got the party the use of the empty house for the night in exchange for five old silver dimes.

After the seven horses were crowded into the lean-to and most of the supplies were transferred from the wagon to the house, Lieutenant Ivarsson commented to Anse. "We actually made a good distance today, better than twenty of your miles, I think. I was impressed by the wheels on the wagon. They do make it travel better. How does it work?"

"The tires are solid rubber and give a wider area on the ground. It makes them roll easier. The real secret is the bearings in the wheel hubs."

Captain von Dantz called from the door of the house. "We need to get settled in for the night. If we cover as much ground tomorrow, we can be in Suhl before nightfall."

As the captain vanished into the dark interior, Anse noticed Rau waving from the back of the house.

When Anse and Ivarsson joined him, Rau said softly: "I talked to the Schultheiss like you asked. He says nothing unusual is going on to the south, but I noticed the villagers are keeping their animals closer than normal. Then I talked to the boy who keeps the village pigs. He said that there have been a lot of people on the road. All traveling north—well, toward Grantville. That's actually east from where we are now. And all carrying all they own."

Ivarsson looked thoughtful. "Now, that is odd. There have been no reports of any army moving down that way. What else could put people on the road, this time of the year?"

"The pig boy didn't think it was an army. He just said people were moving. I did a run through the woods close to the village. Just off the road to the south there are a couple of families camped. Three men, four women and eight Kinder. One of the boys is man tall. They are keeping a sharp watch and a cold camp, no fire."

"They didn't see you, I take it?" Anse asked. Rau just grinned.

Anse thought a bit. It was not likely at all that an army could have penetrated Franconia and reached as far as the Thuringenwald without news coming to Grantville. There was a radio in Suhl, after all. Besides, armies rarely moved in the winter, here and now, unless they had to.

He turned and looked at the house they were using. "Okay, change of plans. We keep two people on watch all night. Jochen, I want you to knock a couple of tiles loose on the roof to make a firing point in the loft on the side that overlooks the road. Lieutenant Ivarsson, I want you and Mrs. Reardon up there with your rifles, if anything happens. Jochen, you and me can cover the windows and door on the ground floor. Wili can cover the lean-to, through the door that connects it to the house. I don't think anyone is going to jump us, but it doesn't hurt to plan ahead."

"What about the captain?" Rau asked.

Anse shook his head. He didn't trust von Dantz to be an alert sentry, with his arrogant attitudes. "We'll let him sleep. Hopefully nothing will happen. If it does, he stays with us on the ground floor. Now go make that loophole. I'll bring Wili up to speed. Anything you want to add, Lieutenant Ivarsson?"

"No, your plan seems good. But I think we need Corporal Rau mounted tomorrow. Can you ride?"

Rau nodded, but had a disgusted look on his face as he went toward the door. Anse had to smile, because he knew Rau hated horses.

After a quick supper, cooked by Wili and Gaylynn at the fireplace, the party spread out their bed rolls. Gaylynn walked over to where Anse was sitting near the door. "Which shift do you want me to take?"

"Well, Jochen and Nils are going to take the first watch and they'll wake Wili and me for the second. So you and the captain can have a full night's sleep. Speaking of which, if you want you and Noelle can have the loft to sleep in. That'll give you a little privacy."

Gaylynn looked around the single room of the ground floor and nodded. "Thank you, but I don't want you thinking you have to look out for me. I can take care of myself if it comes to a fight, so none of this `take care of the helpless woman business.' And tomorrow night I'll take a turn on watch."

"Gaylynn, the loft is where I'd want you and your rifle anyway, if something goes down. You'll have a better field of fire, especially after Jochen makes a firing point up there."

It was five hours later, by Anse's watch, when he was awakened by Jochen Rau shaking his shoulder. He looked around the room by the dim light thrown out by the fireplace and saw that everything seemed normal.

"Anything happen?"

"No one has come near the house, but there has been a lot of traffic on the road. People moving quietly in the night, all heading to the north. Ivarsson is out by the wagon keeping watch, waiting for you. We have been taking turns outside."

"Fine, I'll go relieve him. You wake Wili and get some sleep."

When Anse went outside, he discovered he had been right in his weather prediction. There was a light snow falling, blanketing the area with pleasant noiselessness.

He found Nils Ivarsson huddled near the wagon, wrapped in a blanket. "I got it. Go on in and get some sleep."

The Swedish officer rose to his feet. "If Rau didn't tell you, there have been people on the road all night. A couple started to walk over to the wagon, but when they saw we were keeping watch they went on. They were mostly family groups, as near as I can tell."

Ivarsson gathered his blanket about himself and headed for the house.

Anse stood there asking himself why on earth people would be moving at night this far into the N.U.S. It was miles from the border. They hadn't even crossed the ridge of the Thuringenwald yet. Actually, they were barely into the mountains. Tomorrow they would be traveling along the main trade route between Erfurt and Nürnburg, which had had quite a bit of ordinary commercial traffic. There was just no obvious reason for people to be traveling by stealth here in Thuringia. Why weren't Rau and Ivarsson questioning what they saw? Or had they just become so inured to moving refugees that they didn't ask any more?

He and Wili split the next few hours of standing watch, taking turns ducking into the house to warm up. An hour into their watch, the snowfall ended and the sky cleared. There was now a half-moon in the sky to give them better visibility.

Three times, they saw parties passing on the road. None of them seemed hostile. Only once did it look like anyone took an interest in the village he was passing through, and that was one man walking alone leading an ox cart. He looked over the wagon, but moved on when he saw the gleam of Anse and Wili's weapons in the moonlight.


January 18, 1633

Just before dawn, as he stood watching the road, Anse could hear the village waking up. The sounds of people preparing for the coming day were emanating from all the other houses. From the house the party had rented, he could hear muffled conversation as the expedition members were starting to fix breakfast. When he heard the door open behind him, he glanced back and saw Captain von Dantz emerging into the winter morning.

"Morgen, Herr Hatfield. I see there was no trouble during the night. Your fears of attack seem to have been groundless."

The captain's tone practically oozed self-satisfaction. "Tonight, though, if we don't reach Suhl, we will have to keep a better watch. We will be in the heart of the Thueringerwald."

Anse was tempted to just let it go, but von Dantz was really getting on his nerves. He pointed to the tracks in the snow. "It wasn't as quiet as you think. Quite a few people came by here in the night. When they saw we were on the alert, they passed on."

"What? There were people on the road last night? Who were they? Soldiers? Bandits? Who?"

"Mostly they seemed to be in family groups, and I didn't see a lot of weaponry. So my best guess is they were refugees."

The captain grunted. "That is no problem. There are always people running away from war."

"Makes you wonder, though. Just what it is that they're running away from, Captain? What ever it is, we're heading straight for it."

"Nonsense! There is no enemy army in this region. These peasants are fleeing phantoms and rumors. Or seeking fabled streets of gold in wonderful Grantville, perhaps." He snorted. "Still, it will not hurt to be cautious until we get to Suhl. You should send your Corporal Rau to scout the road ahead, and I will stay closer to the wagon to help guard it."

"I agree, Captain—but Rau needs a horse. I'll have to put him on one of your remounts."

"Ja, ja, he can use Lieutenant Ivarsson's spare horse. Now we should get the others moving and load this wagon."


After breakfast, the party was once more on its way. Rau had left while they were still packing the final load on the wagon, and was out of sight ahead. Anse took position beside the wagon, with von Dantz a dozen or so yards ahead and Ivarsson bringing up the rear.

Twenty minutes later, Anse saw the captain waving for him to move up and join him. As he rode forward, the captain rode ahead about a hundred yards to where Rau had dismounted and was standing by his horse waiting for them. When the two arrived Rau said in a low voice, "Just around the next curve there is a group of people. It looks like four families, men, women and Kinder. I couldn't get close enough to get a good count, but there are at least twenty-five. Four ox carts, but I only saw three oxen. I saw a couple of long guns and one spear, not a pike but a hunting spear. They had a man walking ahead and I was spotted before I saw them."

Anse could hear the real disgust in his voice. Jochen was proud of his ability to go unnoticed.

Before Anse could speak the captain stated: "Herr Hatfield, we should ride down the road as a group surrounding your wagon. It is not likely that a gaggle of farmers will attack armed soldiers. You and I will lead, riding ahead of the wagon. Corporal Rau, you will join Sergeant Ivarsson and bring up the rear."

"I'll give the orders, Captain, if you don't mind," Anse said, mildly but firmly.

Von Dantz's jaws tightened, but he accepted the reproof without open argument. Now that Anse had established his authority, he thought about the problem itself. He decided the captain's plan was as good as any.

"We'll do it that way," he pronounced. "Everyone should have a weapon in hand, though. Nothing says a bandit doesn't have a wife and kids or these couldn't be stragglers from someone's army with camp followers."

As they rounded the curve in the road and rode toward the unknown group it became clear enough that these were simply refugees. The three carts with oxen were being pulled off the road. The people seemed to be trying to hide them in the trees that bordered the road, not that they had any chance of doing so in the time given. The one remaining cart, apparently pulled by two men, was still on the road, but four men were unloading its contents. As the wagon approached the cart the men stopped, and stood in silence around it.

Anse called softly, "Wili, you look the most like a farmer. Talk to them and find out what's going on."

Wili stopped the wagon beside the cart and leaned over to talk to the men. Anse couldn't catch more than about one word in five, but he understood enough to know that Wili started with comments on the weather and proceeded to ask about the road conditions to the south. It wasn't until the men started looking a bit relaxed that Wili asked them why they were on the road in the first place.

After they finished, Wili passed them a bag, which Anse knew contained a couple of dozen apples from Henry Johnson's trees. He then snapped the reins and put the wagon in motion.

"Did I get that right, Wili? They are Franconians? Their neighbors forced them out?"

"Ja, they are chust farmers. They ver pushed out of their villages for saying they like the idea of a single Deutsch nation. Their neighbors do not like being ruled from Grantville because it is in Thuringia. They come from more than one village, too."

That meant the hostile attitudes were not confined to a single locality. Anse felt sorry for the people sent into Franconia to "administer" the area, without—from a military standpoint, anyway—having a pot to piss in.

A few miles after they had passed the refugee party, Anse saw Rau once again stopped ahead waiting for them. When they had joined him, he said: "Crossroads village up ahead. They have the road blocked and are making people go around. Looks like they have had some trouble lately. I saw a couple of burnt houses."

"Same positions, Herr Hatfield?" Wili asked.

"Yes, and we'll ride directly to the road block. We have to find out what's going on."

Von Dantz came up in time to hear the last couple of sentences. "General Kagg must be told. I am thinking we should send a message back to him about what the peasants said, also."

"There's a radio in Suhl, Captain," Anse pointed out. "It will be quicker to send the message from there. Besides, with only five of us, who would we send?"

The captain looked perplexed for a minute, "Ah. Radio. Ja, we will send a message from Suhl."

As they approached the village, Anse could see the villagers had blocked the four roads into it by the simple method of parking carts full of rocks side by side in the road. With two or three armed men beside each cart, it was a block no one was going to move before the rest of the village could gather to stop them. Not very effective against an army, but it was good enough to stop refugees. What the merchants and other legitimate business travelers who used the road during the day would make of it was another problem, Anse thought.

Riding closer, it became obvious there was a watch being kept on the road also. Anse could hear voices calling from the trees alongside the road, and people were gathering at the road block.

"Let's keep it low-key, Captain," Anse said to Captain von Dantz, who was riding beside him. "They have men in the woods and we're flanked." Only after he spoke did it occur to him that von Dantz might not understand the American colloquialism.

But, apparently, he did—or at least the gist of it. Von Dantz nodded and said softly, "And there are men on the roofs, too. Someone in this village has experience."

"Halt! Stehenbleiben! Wer sind Sie?" a voice called out from the village. Anse's German was good enough to translate that last word into an demand to know who they were.

While Rau called out that they were a party of the New U.S. Army escorting two civilians to Suhl, Anse eased back until he was beside the wagon.

"Gaylynn, don't touch your rifle, but see the guys on the roofs?" Gaylynn nodded. "They're yours if any shooting starts."

Before anything could happen, a new voice called out from behind the roadblock. "Gaylynn Reardon? Is that you?"

Gaylynn almost jumped out of her seat. "Yes! Who wants to know?"

"It's me, Pete Chehab." A young man walked from behind the cart roadblock.

As the man approached, Anse could see he was a N.U.S. sergeant in his early twenties. He was dressed in the tie-dyed camouflage that was replacing the uptime hunting outfits as they wore out.

"Relax, everyone," Gaylynn said. "I know him. That's Pete Chehab. He's from Grantville and used to ask Gary for advice when he was in tech school."

After introductions were made, Chehab continued. "Me and Hans Koeppler were bringing some dispatches from the garrison at Suhl to General Kagg in Grantville."

For a moment, he looked disgruntled. "Why the hell they didn't just use the radio is a mystery to me. Probably because the garrison commander is an old-fashioned down-timer and his uptime `military liaison'—that's that jer . . . —ah, Lieutenant Horton—seems to think the radio's some kinda virgin, can't get its cherry popped."

Noelle Murphy laughed. No little titter, either, but not so loud as to attract attention. Anse himself had to fight to keep from grinning, in the interests of military protocol. Since Chehab hadn't quite come out and publicly insulted his superior officer, he decided he could let it pass.

Besides, jerk was a pretty good depiction of Lieutenant Johnny Lee Horton. If anything, it was on the mild side.

"We just got here a couple of hours ago," Chehab continued, "and we found the village like you see it now. They had some trouble with bandits a few days ago. They ended up with two houses burnt so the've blocked off the little roads up into the hills and they're forting up at night. They move a couple of carts off the trade route during the day to let the traffic through. Once they check their documents. All these refugees on the road are making them even more nervous. I was just getting ready to go on to Grantville when you showed up. Do you have any idea what's going on? Some of these guys act like we just shot their dog."

Anse shook his head. "Last time we heard, everything was calm clear to Nürnberg. How was Suhl when you left?"

"Suhl was quiet. Well, as quiet as a town where every other house is hammering out gun barrels can be. But there was nothing like this. No refugees coming through. They must have been taking back paths around the city."

"Sergeant," Captain von Dantz broke in, "can you delay your departure until I write a message to the general?"

"Sure, Captain. We're a regular pony express."

The captain walked to the wagon, shaking his head. Anse had to smile. The captain spoke good English, but now he was learning American.

As they passed through the village after seeing Sergeant Chehab and his party depart, Anse saw that most of the home owners had painted red and white stripes on their doors to show their allegiance to the government in Grantville. In the middle of the crossroads, they had planted a flagpole and were flying the flag many of the Committees of Correspondence had adopted. The thirteen red and white stripes were the same as the American flag, but the snake painted across them was not the semifamiliar timber rattler. Instead, it was an adder.


Just south of the village, the normal commercial traffic became heavier. They were passing parties every mile, and Rau was reduced to riding only a hundred yards in front of the wagon.

"Herr Hatfield, we are going too slow," von Dantz complained. "At this rate, we will never make it to Suhl before nightfall."

"Captain, we were figuring three or four days when we started. So even if we don't make Suhl tonight, we're still ahead of schedule. I packed tents and enough sleeping bags for everyone. Wili made sure there was hay and feed for the horses. So we should be okay if we have to camp again."

"I want—"

Anse never did find out what the captain wanted, because just then Gaylynn yelled from the wagon seat. "Wili, stop the wagon! Look over there!"

Gaylynn was down from the wagon and striding across the road before anyone realized what she was talking about. Near the road were the huddled forms of two children. They were sitting together, wrapped in a blanket that was mostly holes. Wili tied the reins to the brake lever and dismounted to help her with the translation. The American woman's German was passable, but probably not good enough to decipher what frightened children might be saying

Captain von Dantz rode back to see what the delay was. "What are you doing, woman? We have to keep moving."

"I'm tending to these children!" Gaylynn snapped back. "What do you want to do? Just leave them here to freeze?"

The captain shrugged irritably. "We can load them on the wagon and take them with us, if you insist. Quickly—we have only two hours of daylight left."

Now that he was closer, Anse could see the children were both boys, about five or six years old. He called to Rau, who was still mounted. "Jochen, ride ahead and see if there are any refugees on the road. These boys have gotten lost from their family."

"Nein," Wili called, "they live over there." He pointed toward a path that could barely be seen joining the road, about a half mile down. "They say men come and hurt their Grossvater this morning. They ran off."

"Jochen, check it out quietly," Anse ordered. Rau dismounted and headed for the woods beside the road.

Wili and Gaylynn had managed to get the boys to the wagon when Rau returned. "It looks like there are eight of them, all on foot, in a charcoal burner's cabin. They left the old man tied to a tree outside. He looks dead. They have two men keeping watch in front of the house and the rest are in the house."

Before Anse could say anything, von Dantz spoke up. "If you will permit me to make a suggestion"—the words practically dripped sarcasm—"I think we should leave Frau Reardon and Fräulein Murphy here to watch the boys and the wagon. Private Schultz will take my spare horse, and we will ride to the house and demand to know what these men are doing."

Anse was not surprised by the captain's "plan." He didn't doubt the man's courage, but he had about as few brains as a rabbit.

"Well, that might work, but Wili doesn't ride. And if the bandits decide to make a fight of it, we'll be out in the open with no cover."

"Herr Hatfield, these are bandits, not trained troops."

In Anse's experience, the distinction in the seventeenth century between "bandits" and "trained troops" was a lot fuzzier than von Dantz made it out to be. "It never hurts to have an edge, Captain. Jochen, Wili and I will sneak up on the house through the woods. Then you and Lieutenant Ivarsson ride in with the wagon, with Gaylynn driving, to where the path from the house comes to the road before you ride up to the house. Noelle and the boys can stay in the wagon bed, where they'll have some shelter if the stuff hits the fan. Gaylynn can cover the front of the house and give you some support. The three of us in hiding can give the bandits a nasty surprise if they try to attack you. And it gives us six guns instead of four."

After a moment, von Dantz nodded. "Do not fire until we arrive."

"Give us ten minutes to get in position." Anse handed the captain his pocket watch.

Rau went to the rear of the wagon and started digging in his pack. Anse was not surprised to see him pull out two hand grenades. Rau had developed a positive love for grenades since he discovered you could fish with them.

As the three entered the woods, Anse asked, "How are you going to light those?"

Rau held up a Zippo lighter. "Chief Schwartz gave it to me. He likes fish."

When they arrived at the house, it was much like Rau had described it: a simple one-room structure with one door and only two windows, one on each side. Not much more than a big hut, really. Definitely a charcoal-burner's place, from the nature of the tools scattered around.

The window panes appeared to be made from thin leather and were partially open. There were two outbuildings: a simple privy and a small shed. The shed, which was open on the front, was the home of a large donkey, which was inside. The privy was on the opposite side of the house from the shed and looked in need of repair. From the woods they could see the body of an old man tied to a tree close to the shed. Two bandits were standing guard outside the front door to the house.

While they were still some distance away, Anse laid out his plan. "Jochen, work your way up to the far side of the house. If they start shooting, toss a grenade through the window. Wili, you and me will crawl up on the near side. You take the window and after the grenade goes off, bust open the window and cover the inside of the house. I'll move on to the corner and take the two men out front. Understood?"

When the two others nodded, Anse continued. "Now don't do anything until someone takes a shot at the captain. They might surrender." From the looks on Wili and Jochen's faces, they doubted that as much as Anse did.

Everything went as planned, up to a point. Anse and Wili had just gotten into position on either side of the window when they heard a shot from the other side of the house. That shot was followed by two more, and then some shouting.

"Wili, watch the window. Don't fire until I do."

Anse stepped to the corner of the house. A quick glance around it made immediately clear what had happened. Of the two men who had been watching the front of the house, one had gone to the privy. Either going to or coming back, he had seen Jochen near the house and taken a shot at him. He'd missed, Jochen hadn't, and the man was down near the privy. His partner was kneeling by the door of the house readying his match lock and yelling at the top of his lungs.

Anse stepped out and called, "Throw down your gun. Geben oben." Either the man didn't want to give up or Anse's German wasn't understandable, because he turned and raised his weapon. Before he could get it halfway up, he took two twenty-gauge slugs in the chest. He was wearing a breast plate, but at a range of less than six feet it made very little difference.

As Anse shifted his aim to cover the door he heard the familiar clackity-boom that told him Wili was unloading his shotgun through the window. Jochen's warning call of "Grenade!" was almost covered up by the sound of Anse's shotgun taking out a man trying to flee the pocket hell that Wili had made of the inside of the house.

After the grenade exploded, there was nothing but silence.

When his ears quit ringing, Anse called out, "Wili, Jochen! Are you all right?"

"Ja," the two responded, almost in unison.

Captain von Dantz and Lieutenant Ivarsson were coming at a gallop. The two were just turning off the road. Gaylynn was close behind, driving the wagon.

"Herr Hatfield, I told you to wait!" were the first words out of the captain's mouth, as he slid from his horse. "We needed prisoners to question, not just bodies."

Just then a shot rang out from inside the house. The bullet made a wheeting sound as it passed between Anse and the captain. Anse and the captain both turned and fired at almost the same time. The wounded man standing in the doorway of the house, trying to reload his pistol, was driven back inside by the force of both shots hitting him dead center.

"Sorry, Captain, but I don't think they want to surrender."

"It seems not. So be it, then." He drew his sword and stepped toward the house.

Seeing the captain about to enter with only his sword as a weapon, Anse said. "Wait a second, Captain. Take my shotgun. Just point it and pull the trigger. There's still two shells in it."

Von Dantz took the shotgun. Anse drew his pistol and the two moved to the door. Once they looked through the door, however, it was obvious that the shooting was over. The bodies of the bandits were scattered around the one room of the house. Wili and Jochen were looking through the two windows of the house, their guns pointing inside, but nothing was moving.

"Lieutenant Ivarsson," the captain called. "If you and Herr Hatfield's men can clean the bodies out of the house, we can get the women and the boys out of the weather. We will have to camp here tonight."

Anse rolled his eyes. It was typical of the captain, that he didn't give a thought to the reaction of the two boys or the women—or the men, for that matter—at the prospect of spending the night in a cabin that was splattered all over with blood and gore. Jochen's grenade had practically shredded at least one of the bandits.

"I think not, Captain," he said firmly. "As I told you, we have perfectly serviceable tents with us." Jabbing a finger at the inside of the cabin, he added: "That's a charnel house in there. Even in winter, the stench will be unbearable."

Fortunately, von Dantz didn't argue the matter. He simply stalked off, in a huff.

Lieutenant Ivarsson came up.

"Herr Hatfield, I think we should dig a grave for the old man. But what do you want to do with the bandits?"

Anse made a face. "Well, I'm damned if I feel like digging any bigger hole than we need to, in this frozen ground."

The big Swedish lieutenant smiled coldly. "Why bother?" He nodded toward the privy. "There is already a big hole dug under that. For such as these, a fitting resting place."

Anse smiled back, just as coldly. The idea was certainly tempting, but . . .

Leaving aside everything else, a poor charcoal-burner's privy in the rocky soil of the Thuringenwald probably wouldn't be big enough to hold all the corpses.

"No, we'll give them a grave."


Wili and Jochen took turns and soon had the shallow graves dug, while Anse and Ivarsson gathered some rocks to cover them. Once they realized that the bedrock was less than a foot below the surface, they ended up piling the rocks into cairns. A respectable one, near the house, over the old man's body; a make-shift one, a bit farther off, for the corpses of the bandits. Meanwhile, in a small clearing a quarter of a mile down the road, Gaylynn and Noelle set up the tents.

Once the old man's grave was ready, Anse went over to the campsite. "Gaylynn, do you want to bring the boys out to say goodbye to their grandfather?"

Somewhat dubiously, she looked at the tent where Noelle was keeping the children.

"Yes, I suppose we should. It might make the boys feel better."

Von Dantz, by then, had settled himself into another tent. Anse pulled back the flap and asked: "Would you happen to have a Bible, Captain?"

"Ja, a New Testament, but it is in German. Do you read German?"

It'd be in Fraktur script, too, the Gothic style, which Anse still had a lot of trouble with. "Not too well, no. But Wili does. Wili's a Catholic, but he'll be willing to say a few words to send any Christian home."

The captain looked a little surprised, but got his New Testament out of his pack.

Later, after the burial and a quick supper, Captain von Dantz approached Anse. "I think we should all stand watch tonight. Three on, three off. You, me and Private Schultz on the first watch and Sergeant Ivarsson, Rau and Frau Reardon on the second. Since the Murphy woman is unarmed and seems not very familiar with weapons, I see no point in including her. Besides, she is tending the children."

"Sounds good, Captain."


January 19, 1633

The night was quiet. Early the next morning as they were repacking the wagon, Anse asked, "Noelle, what do you think we should do with the boys? We can't leave them here."

"You should stop referring to them as `the boys,' for starters," she said, a little crossly. "You make them sound like luggage. They are Hans Felix Polheimer and Hans Ulrich Moser. They're first cousins. Hans Felix is the older. As to what we're going to do with them, we're taking them to Suhl. Obviously."

Anse couldn't help smiling at her frosty tone. He'd heard that Noelle Murphy didn't suffer fools gladly—and, admittedly, his question had been a little foolish.

"Load Hans and Hans on the wagon, then. We're almost ready to pull out. Von Dantz will have kittens if they're are any more delays."

"I'd say let him, except I'd pity the poor kittens."

That turned Anse's smile into a real grin.


When they arrived in Suhl, a little after noon, Anse was surprised by the size of the city. It was a lot smaller than he'd expected from Pat's letters. That must be caused by the wall crowding everyone inside, he thought.

Then he noticed the people themselves. Over the past year and a half, he'd gotten used to the mix of uptime and down-time clothing worn around Grantville, and—though to a lesser extent—in nearby Badenburg and Jena. Now, having crossed the Thuringenwald, he was in a strictly German city.

Not only was there no mix of clothing, but many of the people on the streets of Suhl were casting unfriendly looks at the party. Whatever was causing trouble in the countryside had spread to the city, apparently. Anse was getting a weird feeling of deja vu. This was all strange, but all too familiar.

Then it hit him. The last time he'd felt this way was almost forty years earlier. In Saigon, in 1969, just before the Tet Offensive.

There were no overt signs of hostility, however. That was presumably because of the tough-looking mercenaries who were guarding the city gates and, now and then, patrolling the streets in small squads. The Swedish garrison wasn't very big, true, but it was big enough to keep the peace in a town the size of Suhl. The problem was that the Swedish garrison shouldn't be patrolling in a N.U.S. state, in the first place. The city council should be keeping the peace with constables or militia.

Anse scowled. He let the wagon pass him and rode close to the tailgate so he could talk to Rau without shouting.

"Can you pass for a local, Jochen?"

When Rau nodded, Anse continued: "Pass me your shotgun and get your revolver out of sight. I want you to do a little walk around here in Suhl. Drop off the wagon when no one can see you. Find out what's going on and meet me at Pat's house. You have the address?"

"Nein. But how many U.S. WaffenFabrik can there be in Suhl?" Jochen grinned as he handed Anse the shotgun. "I will find you."

Anse rode forward to the front of the wagon. When he turned to look, Jochen was already gone. "Slippery as an eel," he said to himself.

They only had to ask directions three times before they pulled on to the street that promised to hold Pat's factory. Then Anse spotted it, immediately. Pat had marked his shop with a huge sign made like an uptime Kentucky rifle that reached most of the way across the narrow street. Across the front of the building was printed in two foot high letters, U.S. WaffenFabrik.

"Anse Hatfield! What are you doing in Suhl?" Anse was disoriented for a moment, until he saw that what he had at first glance taken for a prosperous looking down-timer was actually his brother-in-law. Pat Johnson was dressed entirely in down-time clothing.

"Hi, Bubba. We came to see you, partly."

" 'Allo, Wili." Pat nodded to Schultz, sitting on the wagon seat. "Hi, Gaylynn. Gary didn't tell me you were coming to Suhl."

"That's because Gary didn't know. I wanted to surprise him. Now where is he?"

"Well, he's either in the office, right through that door, or on the shop floor on the other side."

Gaylynn was off the wagon quick as a flash and headed for the door. Then she stopped and turned to the wagon. "Felix, Ulrich, kommen mit me. I want you to meet Gary."

Her mixture of German and English might not have been understood by the boys. But Noelle's nudge was clear enough. The two young cousins jumped from the wagon and followed Gaylynn through the door. Noelle went with them, after exchanging a brief greeting with Pat.

After watching the little procession pass through the door, Pat turned back to Anse and Wili. "Does someone want to tell me who those two boys are and what's going on?"

Anse chuckled. "Well, it looks as if Noelle has convinced Gaylynn that her family just got a little bigger."

"Ja," Wili added. "Gary chust become the father of two boys named Hans."

Pat waved his hand. "Tell me over lunch. Come on. We'll put the horses, the donkey and the wagon in the factory yard and I'll buy your lunch. There's a good tavern nearby."

"No Freedom Arches? I make it a point to patronize them."

Pat seemed to grimace a little. "In Suhl? Not yet. And if those boys don't . . . ah, never mind."

* * *

Over a lunch of stew, cheese, and rye bread, the two travelers explained where the boys came from. After that they got down to the reason for the trip.

When they were done, Pat Johnson nodded and pursed his lips thoughtfully. "I'd guess about fifteen hundred guns a week are leaving Suhl. Small arms, that is. Not more than one or two field pieces. Most are going north, either to princes who are members of the CPE or friendly to it. But at least five hundred a week are going to someone else. As far as I know, none of my rifles have gone to unfriendly people, although I can't be sure. I suppose I should have put the factory in Jena, but . . ."

He shrugged. "Property values in Jena are getting almost as high as in Grantville—and there were so many trained and experienced gunsmiths here."

"Nobody's faulting you, Pat," Anse responded. "Have you talked to the head of the city militia? Or the Swedish garrison commander? Or the N.U.S. military liaison?"

Pat's grimace, this time, wasn't subtle at all.

"Not much, still less, and none at all. The garrison commander is Captain Bruno Felder, and I can't tell if he's dumb or lazy or both. Either way, he's made it plain he's not interested. As for the N.U.S. military liaison, what idiot sent Johnny Horton down here in that capacity? He's dumber than Felder, and I only wish he were as lazy. What he is, is a hothead. Seems like every other day, he's quarreling with one of the locals. Especially with the Suhl militia captain. Usually over some petty bullshit."

Anse rubbed his face. He didn't know the German captain in command of the Swedish garrison, but he did know Johnny Horton. Stupid and quarrelsome were pretty fair descriptions of the man. He'd been perhaps the least popular teacher at Grantville's high school.

"The whole army's stretched tight as a drum, Pat," he said, by way of an explanation-excuse.

"Sure, I know. Just like I know that it probably looked like a smart idea, back up there in Grantville, to shuffle him off to Suhl. But I can tell you it was one terrible idea. There's enough trouble here as it is, without us stirring up more of it. And why the hell do we need a `military liaison' in the first place? The whole damn Swedish garrison isn't more than maybe forty men."

Anse didn't bother answering the question, since it was obviously rhetorical. The answer was the same, anyway: Somebody in headquarters thought it would be a bright idea to get rid of Horton by saddling Suhl with him.

"What about that `trouble'?" he asked, instead. "We told you what we saw on the way here. Are you seeing any of that here?"

"Anse, I've lived here now for over a year, and I've made a lot of friends among the local gunmakers. Masters and their journeymen, both. As you can see, I dress and live just like my neighbors, but no one is talking to me about politics. There's less than a dozen of us uptimers here, and none of us know what's going on. We know there's a lot of bad feeling about Gustavus Adolphus giving Franconia to Grantville to govern, but it doesn't seem directed at us, so much. Not personally, I mean. It's just that I doubt you could find three people anywhere in the area who'd give you two cents for Gustavus Adolphus and his Swedes."

He sipped from his beer. "The truth is that there's really nobody in charge this close to Franconia, beyond the limits of the major towns. We're now officially the top honchos, sure—but we don't have anybody south of the Thuringenwald except a handful of people scattered in the big towns and a `military force' that's just barely this side of a joke. The Swedes have small garrisons here and there, but since everybody hates them, nobody ever turns to them for help. I doubt they'd be any help, anyway. Truth us, I don't have a much higher opinion of the mercenaries working for Gustavus Adolphus here than the locals do."

He dipped into his beer again, this time for a full swallow. "All that adds up to Franconia and the mountains of the Thuringenwald outside of the walled cities and fortified villages becoming a magnet for every gang of robbers and thieves around—of which they're are plenty, after fifteen years of this madhouse war. The difference between `army deserter' and `bandit' is the difference between Monday and Tuesday. And on Wednesday, often enough—maybe Thursday—you'll find them reenrolled in somebody's army. Here, it's likely to be the Swedish army, which makes everybody trust them even less."

"Have you talked to the CoC leaders?"

Pat issued a sarcastic snort. "Leaders? Anse, get real. The Committees of Correspondence here in Suhl—everywhere in Franconia, so far as I can tell—don't amount to more than handful of kids. The CoCs are not popular even here in Suhl, the way they are further north in Thuringia. Not anywhere in Franconia, so far as I know."

He paused to take a bite of his stew, and washed it down with some more beer. Then, continued:

"The attitude of people here toward the CoCs is pretty much the same as their attitude toward us. Uptimers, I mean. They don't have anything against us personally—not yet, anyway—but since we're associated with the Swedes they figure we can't be worth much, either. They certainly don't trust us, as a group, with the exception of some individuals here and there. Some of the villages in the Thuringenwald, too, like the one you ran across. They've had longstanding ties with Thuringia, many of them. But those people don't carry much weight in Suhl or any of the other major towns, once you get over the mountains."

Anse nodded. "Gotcha. Now, on another subject, I need to talk to you about something other than those guns going south. How many rifles, smooth bores and pistols do you have on hand right now?"

Pat looked thoughtful for a moment. "Finished . . . maybe ten pistols, ten to twelve rifles and at least thirty smooth bores. Wait a couple of days and we can add a dozen more pistols, four rifles, and maybe ten more smooth bores. Rifling takes time, but we can make three pistols for every rifle. Most of our guns are shipped as soon as we finish them. Ruben might have another dozen pistols, and ten to fifteen rifles in his shop. I know he's sold out of smooth bores. He was by last night wanting more."

"Ruben?" Anse asked.

"Ruben Blumroder. He's one of the major gunmakers here—owns some of the stock in our company, too, plus being involved in the same trade in Schleusingen. That's about ten or twelve miles farther down the road. Maybe in some other towns, too. He has a lot of connections all through this region. He's friendly and has been a big help to us. In fact, without him I don't think Joe and I could have got our factory started as fast as we did. The man knows everyone in town, and was able to recommend some good gunsmiths looking for work. He speaks something like eight languages, including English. But why are you asking about what guns I have on hand?"

"It's simple. It looks like the TacRail company is going to war. And we're getting the littlest pig's share when it comes to weapons. What I want to do is to fill the wagon with anything that will shoot, and haul it back for the boys and girls. Think of it as a late Christmas present."

"Okay. We'll write it off against the debt the factory owes you and save you some money. I take it this is not official."

"No, it's not official, although eventually I'll finagle some kind of reimbursement. But I'll pay cash money. Gold, in fact." Anse grinned. "You can handle Krugerrands, can't you?"

Pat chuckled. "Hell, yes. They'd be a lot better than most of the coins floating around."

They'd finished eating. Pat pushed back his chair and rose to his feet. "Let's go down to Ruben's shop and see what he has in stock. I'll introduce the two of you and make sure he gives you a discount."


"It's convenient that his shop is so close to the factory," Anse commented as the two walked along.

"Ruben found the location for the factory, so it's not surprising it's close to his shop. It works out fine. The gunmaking companies in Suhl are competitors, I suppose, technically speaking. But it's really more of a cooperative relationship, in the real world. Kinda like, back home, a bunch of furniture stores would set up right next to each other. Whatever sales one of them might lose to a guy next door, they all gained from the fact that, bunched up like that, they drew a lot more customers to begin with."

He pulled up before a sign and pointed at it. "Here we are. You should notice that Ruben changed his sign. Before, it was two crossed wheel-lock pistols. Now look at it."

Anse looked up. The sign on the gunshop featured two crossed flintlock pistols, just like those that were the output of U.S. WaffenFabrik.

Anse liked the shop, the minute he walked through the door. Its walls were covered with all kinds of weapons. Wheel locks, the old Dutch-style flintlocks and the modern flintlocks introduced by Pat were in the places of pride, but there were guns of every description on the walls. The floor was crowded with racks that were also loaded with guns. Those spaces in the floor racks that did not have firearms were filled with crossbows, spears or swords. And in between the guns on the walls there were accoutrements, powder flasks, bullet pouches and tools.

It was so much like his favorite gunshop back in West Virginia, that Anse felt almost at home. If you added a couple of stuffed deer heads and a girly calendar this place would be just like Jimmy's Gun and Pawn.

"Herr Blumroder, come on out!" Pat called, waving the sales clerk aside. "I want you to meet Anse Hatfield. I know I told you about him."

When Blumroder came out of the back of the shop Anse saw a tall man somewhere in his late fifties, slightly older than himself. Blumroder had the confident air of a successful businessman. "Ah, Herr Hatfield! I have wanted to meet you. Patrick has said so much about you."

His English was fluent, and less heavily accented than Anse would have expected.

"And he has written a lot about you, sir. I'm glad he had your good advice to help him set up here in Suhl."

"Nonsense. Patrick is a wise young man. My major contribution was to make it easier for him to meet people. As you Americans say, I introduced him around."

"And one of those people must be your tailor. Pat was always in jeans and a sweat shirt, before. Now I find him in the latest styles."

Blumroder smiled. "Of course. A successful man must look successful, or no one will take him seriously. But I doubt you are here to ask for my advice on clothing. What can I do for you, Herr Hatfield?"

"Herr Blumroder, I need all the flintlock rifles and smooth bores in your shop and probably most of the pistols."

Before Ruben could react. Pat said: "He's paying in gold, Ruben, and I promised him a discount. What he can't cover right now we can write off against the debt the company owes him. Besides, it's good business. With a major war looking to be in the works, Anse's railroad outfit is bound to expand. And even after the war, the railroads will keep going. If we get in on the ground floor now, we'll be sitting pretty."

Blumroder considered Anse carefully. "Railroads, ha? When you have time later, Herr Hatfield, I would appreciate a detailed explanation of how these things are constructed and operate. From what I've heard from Patrick, it strikes me that there might be a profitable sideline for us there. Not making rails, of course. That's the sort of heavy iron work we don't do. But if those machines are as complicated as they sound . . ."

He shook his head. "But, that is for later. For now, in terms of your immediate business, I will be glad to give you a discount. You are, after all, one of Patrick's partners—and I hold stock in the company myself. I'll have Horst prepare all of my modern guns for shipping. We'll talk about price and discounts when I know what we have."

"Herr Blumroder," Anse responded, "I have a team and a wagon at the factory. We can pick up the weapons and save you any shipping costs."

"Ja, even better." Ruben turned and called to his clerk. "Horst, wieviele moderne Waffen haben wir im Geschäft?"

Horst's immediately started making a count of the modern flintlocks. After a short time, he handed a list to Blumroder.

"It seems we have twenty-one rifles and twelve pistols on hand. Will that be enough for your needs? I will personally add a powder flask and bullet pouch for each weapon to the order at no charge."

Anse did his own calculations. "With the ten rifles and thirty smoothbore Pat has at the factory, that makes sixty-one long guns and twenty-two pistols. Yes, Herr Blumroder, that will make a proper wagon load. Gold on delivery, when I leave Suhl. Will that be acceptable?"

"Ach, pay the money to Patrick," Blumroder said, waving his hand. "I trust him to give me my share. It is not safe to walk around with that much money."


January 21, 1633

When Anse walked into the factory office two days later, early in the morning, Jochen Rau was waiting for him, along with another man.

"Herr Hatfield, I would like to introduce Jorg Hennel, one of the members of CoC here in Suhl. Herr Hennel, this is Warrant Officer Anse Hatfield of the N.U.S. Army."

Anse studied the man with Rau. He was a bit younger than Rau, in his early twenties at a guess, and a bit shorter. But, all in all, the two looked enough alike to be cousins. Given odds, Anse would have bet that a couple of years earlier Jorg had been in the same business as Rau. He had that look about him.

Anse stuck out his hand. "I am pleased to meet you, Herr Hennel," he said in German.

Hennel replied in English, after shaking the hand. "Ich bin—I am—Jorg. You are Anse." His smile was a brash sort of thing, the kind of smile a young man puts on when he's trying to probe an older one. "Jochen was trying to impress me with how important you are."

Anse smiled back. "I'm not much given to formalities, myself. I assume you have some of the information I asked Jochen to find out."

"Yes. He asked for my help in finding who is selling weapons to those Bavarian and Austrian pigs. But perhaps you do not need my help."

Anse frowned. "Why do you say that? We still don't know who's shipping guns or how much they're shipping."

Hennel shook his head. "You just visited—just yesterday again—the man who is the worst offender."

"Blumroder? Ruben Blumroder? He's shipping guns to unfriendly princes?"

"You didn't know?"

Anse shook his head. "No. Are you sure?"

Rau interjected. "Not only his own guns, either, Anse. It seems that Blumroder is something in the way of a general factor for all the gunmakers in Suhl. He puts together gun shipments from many shops and every two weeks he sends out a pack train loaded with guns to Nürnberg. But only part of the pack train arrives there."

"The rest is split off," said young Hennel. "At Schleusingen, we think. What is your American expression?—'peeled away,' I think—before it gets there. That part goes south to Bavaria, we think, probably Munich. From there . . ."

He shrugged. "The Bavarians and Austrians are close. `Thick as thieves,' I think you say."

"You've seen this?"

For the first time, Jorg Hennel didn't look brash. Indeed, he seemed a bit embarrassed. "Well . . . no. We know it's true, but we are not woodsmen. Certainly not Jaeger—and Blumroder always has some Jaeger to guard his pack trains. If we tried to follow, they would surely spot us."

And might very well shoot you, Anse thought to himself.

The Jaeger were nobody to fool with. They were seventeenth-century Germany's equivalent to forest rangers, game wardens, and professional hunters, essentially. The best-positioned worked on a salaried basis for a national authority. Well, for a principality, at least. For a duke or count. Younger men, or those less well-connected, worked on what amounted to a contract basis for local employers until someone retired or was injured or died and a cousin or brother-in-law put in a good word so he could get a permanent slot when it opened. There were Jaeger family trees almost as complex as noble dynasties, and stretching over as many local borders and political boundaries as those of specialty guilds such as the glassmakers.

The Jaeger were crack shots, using rifled muskets instead of the normal smoothbores-and they were perfectly prepared to be ruthless. Even large bandit gangs generally stayed away from them.

At the same time . . .

Anse couldn't help but wince. At the same time, the Jaeger were not rootless mercenaries, like the men who filled most of Europe's armies, including the Swedish army. They almost always had close ties to their local communities. In that sense, they were more like the mountain guides of left-behind modern Europe—or their equivalent, along with bush pilots, in uptime Alaska. Which meant that if they were willing to work for Blumroder, the man—and his activities—had the tacit support of the inhabitants of the area.

In short, a delicate situation just got a lot more delicate—and potentially even more explosive. If the N.U.S. really pissed off the Jaeger, the Thuringenwald would become impassable for any but large military units.

"Shoot, and I like the man," Anse muttered. "So does Pat."

"That's not all, Anse," said Rau gloomily. "It gets worse. Tell him, Jorg."

What brashness had been in the young man earlier was gone now. Hennel took a deep breath and almost blurted out: "Some of the other CoC members—well, all of them, except me—have been talking to your officer, that Horton Scheissk—ah, uptimer fellow. And just last night, they and Horton met with the German officer you brought with you. Captain von Dantz. I think the commander of the Swedish garrison was there, too. I am not sure about that, though." He shrugged. "I was not invited. Things have been strained between me and the rest of the CoC the past few weeks."

Anse had a bad feeling he could guess what the meeting had been about.

"These other CoC members . . . They are, ah . . ."

"What you call `hotheads,'" Hennel replied, scowling. "Or—what I think—simply lazy. They do not have the stomach for patient work. For . . . I forget the English word."


"Yes, that one. Always they think of what they like to call `the bold move.'"

Bold move. Anse was pretty sure the difference between that, in these circumstances, and terrorism . . . was just about nil. But it was the sort of notion that would appeal to impatient, inexperienced and angry youngsters. All the more so with someone like Horton to give it the blessing of "uptimer approval" and an arrogant ass like von Dantz to egg them on.

For that matter, von Dantz might do more than simply egg them on. If he'd gotten the ear of the garrison commander . . .

"Christ," Anse muttered. "This is way over my pay grade."

He took a deep breath. "Well, I guess it's time to find out if Mike Stearns is right."

Hennel cocked his head quizzically. Rau just said: "Eh?"

Anse turned and started back into the shop, gesturing with his head for the others to follow. "Never mind. It's too complicated to explain, and you'll see for yourselves anyway."

* * *

Noelle Murphy was in her room, thankfully. She listened carefully to everything Anse had to tell her, with Rau and Hennel standing against a nearby wall. Throughout, her expression was simply attentive, and her slim hands were folded neatly in her lap.

When Anse was finished, through, an expression came to her face. And she uttered a number of phrases that didn't fit well—not at all, in fact—with her reported ambitions to become a nun.

Admittedly, she did not take the name of the Lord in vain. Didn't mention Him at all, even if there was no act involving procreation or the elimination of bodily wastes that was overlooked.

". . . Wrong with those fucking morons?" she concluded. Eventually.

She brought her angry gaze to bear on Anse. "Wha—exactly—is your authority here, Warrant Officer Hatfield?"

Anse shrugged. "I'm not sure, really. But it doesn't extend as far as handling this."

Noelle rose abruptly to her feet and stalked over to her handbag, perched on a shelf under the window. "Stalked" was the word for it, too. For those few moments, she bore no resemblance at all to a slender young woman. Anse was reminded of an eagle, shifting its talons on a limb to get a better perch for swooping.

She hauled out a fancy looking envelope and handed it to Anse.

"Read that, please."

It had a fancy seal and everything—except this one was embossed by the insignia of the President, not the secretary of state. And when Anse opened it up, he recognized the handwriting. No assistant had drafted this. Mike Stearns' handwriting was pretty unmistakable. Large, looping letters. Not the world's best penmanship, by a country mile—but it was legible, and the handwriting was about as forceful as the contents.

When he was finished, Anse folded the letter back up and returned it to Noelle.

"Okay, Ms. Murphy." He smiled, slyly. "Or should I say Ms. Envoy Extraordinaire?"

For the first time since he'd come in, that characteristically quick smile flitted across her face. "`Envoyette Junior' is the way I actually feel." The smile vanished. "Is it good enough for you?"

"Sure, Ms. Murphy. I have no idea if the President's orders are legal, mind you. What I do know for sure is that I could care less. The way I figure it, he's my ultimate boss and he pretty clearly put you in charge if, in your estimation, the situation called for your direct intervention."

Noelle stared at him for a moment. Then, seemed to swallow.

"Well . . . It's not so much that, Warrant Officer. The fact is, what I'm really doing is putting you in charge. But I guess I do provide you with the official cover."

"That you do," Anse mused, thinking about it. "We're both agreed, I take it, that any attempt to threaten or attack Ruben Blumroder—or any other gunmaker in Suhl—needs to be cut off at the knees?"

"Yes." She waved her hand impatiently. "For now, anyway. Later on, if and when our authority here gets put on a solid basis, and clear laws are passed, things might be different. But for now, yes."

She took a slow breath and let it out in something that was very like a sigh.

"I've spent months studying the down-time laws that apply to this stuff, Warrant Officer. And the fact is that Blumroder is doing nothing illegal. It might be unethical, depending on how you look at it. But he's breaking no actual laws. Nobody in this time and place ties himself in knots over `trading with the enemy.' We can't change that in a few months. Even the Swedes really just want all the weapons without having to outbid the other guys, if you ask me."

Anse must have looked a little surprised, because Noelle sniffed. "Please, Mr. Hatfield! The dictates of a conqueror—and that's really all Gustavus Adolphus is, here—are not `laws.' Not in any sense of the term that our own Founding Fathers would have accepted, anyway. What Blumroder's doing is possibly immoral, if you think in terms of `us the good guys' and `them the bad guys.' And it's certainly dangerous for him, if the Swedes find out and get their backs up. But it is neither illegal nor, given the history of the area and its customs, is it even unpopular."

She ran slim fingers down her dress. It was a seventeenth-century garment, although more severely cut than the norm. "So. The way I see it, our responsibility—for the moment, at least—is to forestall an explosion. Hopefully, down the road, we can persuade Blumroder and the others to cease and desist. But, in the short term, what we have to see to is that his rights are respected."

She barked a little laugh. "It might be better to say, establish that he has rights to begin with."

Now, and for the first time, she seemed uncertain. "I admit, I'm not sure where to start or what to do."

But Anse had already figured it out. Most of it, at least. He rose from his own chair and turned to Hennel.

"Do you know how to get to Grantville, Jorg?"

Uncertainly, young Hennel shook his head. "Not really."

Anse nodded, and turned to Rau. "Jochen, tell Wili to guide him. I want them on the road as soon as possible. I wish we had a radio, but we don't—and under the circumstances, we sure as hell can't ask Horton to borrow his."

"And they are to . . . ?"

"Wili is to report—personally, and tell him not to take any crap—to Mike Stearns. Not Jackson, not Piazza—Stearns himself." He turned back at Hennel. "As soon as you arrive, I want you to meet with Gretchen Richter. Tell her everything you know."

"Very well. And what do you want her to do?"

Anse smiled, very thinly. "Plain to see, you've never met the woman. First, it doesn't matter what I want, since—as she'd be the first to tell you—she doesn't take orders from me. She doesn't take orders from anybody. Second, it doesn't matter. She'll figure out what to do, all on her own. Unless I miss my guess, she'll come right down here herself, like a . . ."

His smile widened. "You may as well get acquainted with another American expression. `Bat out of Hell.'"

He turned back to Rau. "Jochen, do you have any idea if we'd have any influence on the garrison?"

Jochen shook his head. "Not a bit, Mr. Hatfield. They're bought and paid for, and they work for Captain Bruno Felder."

Anse wasn't surprised. Most mercenaries in the seventeenth century didn't hire on as individuals, paid directly by their ultimate employer—who, in this case, was the king of Sweden. They hired on as companies or regiments, and they got their money directly from their own commanders.

"That means they won't pay much attention to Ivarsson, either. If they pay any at all."

"You think . . . ?"

Anse spread his hands. "Who knows? But I'm going to find out. Ivarsson struck me as a levelheaded fellow. I'm hoping he'll see it our way. Whether he does or not, though . . ."

He made for the door. "First thing we do, we make clear to all parties involved that if anyone wants a fight, they'll have it. Follow me, everybody—except you, Jochen and Jorg. Round up Wili, right off, and get on the road. When you're done with that, Jochen, meet me at Blumroder's shop. Or I might be at Pat's, next door."

About halfway down the corridor, he heard Noelle snicker.

"What's so funny?" he asked, a bit crossly.

"You are," came the reply. Her tone thickened, mimicking that of a man. "Follow me, all three of you—except two of you." She snickered again. "That leaves me, the sole follower. Or should I say, fig leaf trailing in the wind?"

Anse couldn't help but chuckle. "You're okay, Ms. Murphy. My strength is as the strength of ten, because my fig leaf is pure."

That brought an actual, down-home laugh. The first one he'd ever heard coming from her.


Anse found Ivarsson in a tavern on the next street. Oddly enough, given the reputation of Swedish soldiers in the area, having what seemed to be a convivial—even jovial—conversation with several other patrons of the place.

All of them, in fact, including the tavern-keeper: some dozen men, all told.

When the Swedish lieutenant spotted Anse entering the tavern, his tough-looking middle-aged face was split by a grin that belonged to a teenager.

"You see?" Ivarsson demanded, lifting his tankard. "Did I not tell you all?"

Everyone else in the tavern swiveled to study Anse, as he approached the big table in the center.

"We still don't know . . ." murmured one of the patrons.

"Skeptic! For shame!" Ivarsson bellowed. He took a slug from his tankard, plunked it down on the table, and wiped his mouth with a sleeve. "Does anyone care to make another wager?"

No one did, apparently. Whatever the bet involved.

Anse drew Ivarsson away from the table, toward the doorway where Noelle waited, so they could talk privately.

"Lieutenant Ivarsson, it has come to my attention that certain persons, it seems, plan to attack Herr Blumroder. I believe Captain von Dantz is involved in the business, along with the military liaison from the N.U.S., Lieutenant Johnny Horton. Probably Captain Felder and his garrison, also. Some other persons."

Ivarsson belched. "To be precise, six out of the seven members of the local Committee of Correspondence."

Ivarsson, clearly enough, had his own sources of inside information in Suhl. Anse wondered who they were, but decided this was not the time to try to find out. Most likely, members of the garrison who had their doubts about the whole thing.

"Uh, yes. I need to know what you propose—"

"I propose?" Ivarsson's expression was a comically exaggerated version of surprise and indignation. "Warrant Officer Hatfield, I am simply here as a representative of the staff of General Kagg. It has been clearly established—your President Stearns was most insistent—that you are the people in charge, here in Suhl. Not us." He waved his hand airily. "So I have nothing to do with it. Other than to wish you the best, of course. Whatever you decide to do."

Anse studied him. Beneath the jovial, almost buffoonish exterior, he didn't miss the keen gaze Ivarsson was giving him. The Swede was perhaps not completely sober, but he was very far from being drunk.


Anse fought off a strong wish that he had been able to down a couple of tankards of beer, himself.


He cleared his throat. "May I assume, then, that neither General Kagg—nor the king of Sweden—have in any way authorized these activities?"

"You may."

"And will stand aside, whatever is done."

Ivarsson smiled. "Oh, yes."

"Will not criticize after the fact?"

The Swedish officer's smile widened. "Wouldn't think of it."


Anse nodded curtly. Ivarsson headed straight back to the crowded table in the middle of the tavern, where he picked up his temporarily abandoned stein.

"Heinrich and Wolfgang, you each owe me a beer," he announced. "Kiefer, by now you owe me the whole tavern. But I'll settle for a pork Schnitzel. No gristle, you understand!"


"Well?" Noelle asked, after they left the tavern.

Anse shook his head. "It's weird. What I can't figure out is whether Ivarsson is acting on his own, or whether Kagg gave him instructions."

"Probably both," Noelle said shrewdly. "One thing I found out before we left is that Ivarsson's been Kagg's right-hand man since forever. Runs in the whole family—both families—it seems. Kind of like old feudal retainers, updated some."

"Um. So what you're saying is that Kagg would have given him some general guidelines, and would then rely on Ivarsson to figure out the footwork."

"Pretty much. I think what's happening is that Gustavus Adolphus told Kagg to see if we could handle the situation—and give us the leeway to do so."

Anse sighed, took off his cap, and ran fingers through his hair. Wishing there wasn't so much gray up there.

I'm too damn old for this—and it's still way over my pay grade.

But . . . there it was.

"Or the rope to hang ourselves with. Okay, so be it. Let's head over to Blumroder's."


Once they were within sight of Blumroder's shop, it was clear as day that Ivarsson wasn't the only one with his own inside sources of information. Two very hard-looking men—Jaeger, from their clothing—were standing guard outside the door. And all the windows had been shuttered.

Just to make things perfect, the shutters all had firing slits—and Anse could see musket barrels poking out of two of them.

In fact . . .

He scanned the whole street, up and down. All of the gun shops were shuttered—and he could see musket barrels in at least four of the windows. Even his brother-in-law Pat had the shutters up.

"Swell," he muttered. "One gunfight at the Suhl corral, coming up."

He headed for the entrance to Blumroder's shop. Anse didn't see any point in talking to Pat until he knew where things stood with the central figure in the situation. Noelle followed, a few steps behind.

He wasn't sure the Jaeger standing guard at the door would even let him in. But, as he approached, that problem became a moot point. Blumroder himself emerged from the shop, carrying a flintlock rifle, and with a grim expression on his face.

Out of the corners of his eyes, Anse could see several of the shuttered windows of the shops on the street opening a little wider and, he was pretty sure, two more musket barrels peeking out. Fortunately, none of the weapons seemed to be pointed at him. So far. Directly, at least. But it wouldn't take more than a second for that situation to change.

"Yes, Herr Hatfield?" asked Blumroder. Despite the expression on his face, his tone was courteous.

Anse didn't see any point in beating around the bush. He stuck his thumb over his shoulder, more-or-less pointing backward.

"First, I'm pretty sure an attack is going to be launched on you. The Swedish garrison will probably be involved."

"An attack has already been launched. Three shots were fired into my shop last night, through an open window in the rear. They barely missed me—and they did injure one of my apprentices. Fortunately, the wound was minor."

Anse had heard the shots himself, as it happened. He simply hadn't thought much of it, because there were often shots being fired on that street. Just about every gunmaker had a firing range as part of his establishment.

A firing range of sorts, at least. For Anse, accustomed to uptime firing ranges, the distances involved were ridiculously short—not more than ten feet, usually. The purpose of the ranges was simply to check a new gun's reliability, not its accuracy. Even with the new flintlock muskets, accuracy still ranked at the bottom of the list, when it came to the qualities looked for in seventeenth-century weapons.

"That would have probably been some of the people in the Committee of Correspondence," he guessed.

"Almost certainly," replied Blumroder. "Not even the drunken swine in the Swedish garrison would have missed, so closely did the would-be murderers stand to the window."

He jerked his head toward the Jaeger at the door. "You can be quite certain they will not miss, once they track down the culprits," he said coldly. "The training we get as members of the Suhl militia is not bad, either."

"There's not going to be any `tracking down of culprits,' Blumroder." Anse's tone was every bit as cold. He turned and motioned Noelle forward. "Ms. Murphy is now in charge, here in Suhl. She has the documents from our President to verify that. And she's placed me in military command. So I'm declaring martial law. Which includes assuming authority over the city militia, by the way."

Anse was pretty sure he was wildly exceeding any formal authority either he or Noelle had, in doing so. "Martial law," to down-timers, was indistinguishable from "conqueror's fiat." And Anse remembered enough of the sketchy legal training he'd gotten to know that uptime American notions were tightly circumscribed by law.

But he didn't care, at the moment.

Blumroder started to say something, but Anse waved him down.

"Be quiet, Blumroder—and don't act as if you're just an innocent party in the business. You've been selling guns to the Bavarians—probably the Austrians, too. You know damn good and well such business is bound to stir up trouble."

"The Swedes," Blumroder hissed. "Why are they supposed to be any different from—"

"Be quiet, I said." Anse stepped forward, ignoring the rifles in the hands of the Jaeger—which were now definitely being pointed at him.

"You're not dealing with Swedes, any longer. You're dealing with the New United States, which happens to be the sovereign authority in the city of Suhl. Since your actions aren't technically illegal—yet—I don't propose to do anything about it. Other than give you a private warning, I guess, that you're playing with fire. But I'm not going to tolerate any `private justice,' either. Not from you or anyone else."

Blumroder was now visibly angry. Anse forestalled the explosion by adding, a bit hurriedly: "`Private justice' also includes any unauthorized actions on the part of the garrison here, or any of its officers or men."

Blumroder snorted sarcastically. "As if they will listen to you!"

Anse shook his head. "It doesn't matter whether they'll listen to me or not. If they don't, they are legally nothing but mutineers—and I will deal with them accordingly."

Another sarcastic snort came from the gunmaker. "You? And who else?" The musket still being in his hands, he pointed with his chin at Noelle Murphy. "The estimable Fräulein?"

Blumroder's eyes seemed to widen a bit. Turning, Anse saw that Noelle had pulled out a pistol from somewhere in her garment. An uptime weapon, at that—but at a glance, he thought it was just a .32 caliber automatic. A "lady's gun," suitable for fending off a mugger—and damn near useless for real military action.

Still, she seemed quite determined. Particularly when she looked at Blumroder and announced that she would provide the mayor and council with official copies of her letter of authorization from President Stearns. Properly sealed.

Then, over her shoulder, Anse saw that Jochen Rau had entered the street, carrying an uptime weapon that was quite suited for military action—a twelve-gauge pump-action shotgun, that he'd have loaded with slugs.

"My entire force," he said, smiling humorlessly. "Along with the Suhl militia. Except for the posse, of course."

He turned back to Blumroder, who was now frowning. "What is a `posse'?" the German gunmaker asked.

"You are," Anse replied bluntly. "You and every able-bodied man in this area—and any Jaeger who work for you."

Hearing a little commotion, he glanced to the side and saw that Gaylynn Reardon had emerged from Pat's shop, holding her rifle.

"Able-bodied person, I guess I should say."

Blumroder was still frowning. Before Anse could say anything further, Noelle spoke up.

"Warrant Officer Hatfield has the authority to deputize anyone he chooses, to serve in the posse. Under our laws, Herr Blumroder, a `posse' is a band of persons temporarily enrolled in the officially authorized police force, to suppress criminal activity."

She cleared her throat. "Mutiny is a criminal activity."

Blumroder and his Jaeger stared at her. Clearly enough, not knowing quite what to make of her words—or of her, for that matter.

It was time to settle this. Anse cleared his throat.

"That's the way it is, Blumroder. Do it my way, and you might get out of this alive. Might even keep your shops intact. Do it any other way, and the Swedes will be convinced that we can't maintain order here. The consequences of that are nothing you want to think about. Unless you're crazy enough to think you and your Jaeger can defeat Gustavus Adolphus—where Tilly and Wallenstein's armies couldn't."

After a moment, Blumroder looked away. "There is also an uptimer involved, on the other side. That Horton Scheisskopf."

Anse shrugged. "So? Grantvillers are just citizens of the N.U.S. They don't enjoy any special privileges."

Honesty forced him to add: "Not legally, at any rate. If I tell Johnny Horton to stand down, and he doesn't, then he's just another mutineer."

Blumroder cocked his head, in a gesture that was quizzical as much as it was skeptical. "He is a lieutenant. I believe that outranks you, Warrant Officer."

"He doesn't outrank me," Noelle interrupted. "And I turned full authority over to Mr. Hatfield. Legally, that's good enough."

Anse could almost hear the next two words, that she must have been thinking but—thankfully—didn't speak out loud.

I think. Noelle Murphy was jerry-rigging just as fast as Anse was.

What the hell. Anse had seen plenty of jerry-rigged machines work well enough, and long enough, in his fifty-four years of life. Maybe this one would, too.

"That's it, then," he said.


"I swear to God, Anse, I had no idea . . ."

"Shut up, Pat," Anse growled. "Don't give me that bullshit. I'll accept that you didn't know. But don't tell me you had no suspicions that Blumroder—your own partner, fer chrissake—wasn't involved in the business."

After a moment, Anse's brother-in-law looked away, then sighed.

"Well, okay. But, look . . ."

When his eyes came back to Anse, there was as much anger in them as shame and embarrassment.

"I live here, damn you. These people are my neighbors."

They were standing inside Pat's shop. Pat used the rifle in his hands to point to the western wall. "Just three shops down, there's a mother and her daughter who were gang-raped by mercenaries in Gustavus Adolphus's army. The girl was only fourteen. When the mother tried to protest that they were Lutherans, too, the stinking bastards just laughed at her. Two of them were members—still are, goddamit—of the Swedish garrison here. When she tried to register a complaint with the garrison commander afterward—yeah, the same Bruno Felder asshole who's still in command—he laughed at her, too."

Anse set his jaws. "I'm not arguing about that, Pat. I don't like mercenary soldiers any more than you do. It still doesn't change the fact that, within a year, we'll most likely have fought a war—and some of our soldiers will have gotten killed with guns from here. And they're going to be pissed as all hell, especially if they find out the gun trade with our enemies is still going on. You know that as well as I do."

Pat looked away again. "Yeah. Well. Look, I didn't know what to do. But I did report the problem to Grantville, at least."

Anse took a deep breath, and let it out. There was no point in staying angry with Pat. If he'd been in the same circumstances, Anse wasn't sure what he'd have done, either. Pat was a civilian. No fig leaf. No backup. Should he somehow have gone for the kind of private justice—vigilante justice—Anse was denying to both Blumroder and the CoC? Somewhere, in his own mind, was there still a sneaking feeling that it would be all right for an American to handle things that way, just because he was an American, but not for Germans who were N.U.S. citizens to do the same?

"All right, forget it. Water under the bridge, and all that. But for the moment, you're a member of my posse also. Got any problems with that?"

Finally, Pat smiled. "Not any, Anse. Not any at all."

"Good. In that case—don't get squirrelly on me, Pat—I want every uptime weapon you've got in the hands of the Jaeger. They're probably better shots than you are."

"Not mine," said Gaylynn Reardon sharply. "Not Gary's, neither." Her husband, standing next to her, looked just as stubborn as she did.

Anse shook his head. "Fine, fine. In the interest of maintaining American pride and morale—not to mention keeping peace in the family—you and Gary and Pat can each keep a modern rifle. But I want the rest in the hands of those who can do the most with them."

"I can shoot as well any damn Jaeger," she insisted. "Got nothing to with pride."

"Who cares how well you shoot, Mrs. Reardon?" he demanded harshly. "How well can you kill? Not dark outlines against the snow or distant figures on a roof that you'd have had in your scope if we'd run into trouble on the trip down here. Men standing right in front of you?"

She didn't look away. But she did swallow.

"Yeah. What I thought. We're not deer hunting, here. I want those guns in the hands of the Jaeger. If there are any left over, let Blumroder decide who gets them. Understood?"

After a moment, they all nodded.

"Do you really think it'll come to that, Anse?" asked Pat.

"Hell, who knows. But . . . yeah, it probably will." He glanced at the shuttered windows. "Felder's thugs aren't just rapists. They're also killers—and they've been the top dogs here, so far. I don't think they're just going to roll over and wave their paws in the air."

Noelle Murphy cleared her throat. "Still . . . Mr. Hatfield, you can't simply wait until there's an armed confrontation in the street. You have to send word to Captain Felder—to von Dantz and Horton, too—that you're now in charge."

Anse made a face. "Ms. Murphy, meaning no disrespect, but it's just a cold fact of life that if I march over to the garrison and start throwing orders around, I'll be lucky if I don't get shot. For sure, I'll get arrested. And then where are we?"

He took off his cap, laid it on a table, and scratched his head. "Look, face it. This so-called `posse' of ours is shaky enough as it is. Take me out of the picture . . ."

Noelle shook her head. "Yes, I understand. But I wasn't suggesting that you do it, personally. Simply that you needed to send word."

"And who . . . ?"

Her face was pale but composed. "I think it's quite obvious. Since I have the documents from President Stearns, I will do it. After I give copies to the city's authorities."

That odd, lightning-quick little smile came and went. "I'm really not what anyone in their right mind would call a `soldier,' Mr. Hatfield. The only reason I carry that little pistol is because my boss insisted. I'm not sure I could hit anything with it, beyond a few yards."

Abruptly, she rose to her feet. "I'm just a fig leaf here, really—and, once the job is done, a fig leaf is disposable."

Pat looked alarmed. "Hey, wait a minute! Didn't you hear what I said earlier? Felder's guys—probably Felder himself—are a bunch of rapists. You go over there . . . I mean, you're young, you're pretty . . ."

She issued that same insta-smile. "I thank you for the compliment, Mr. Johnson. But the same would be true for almost any woman you sent over there. And Mr. Hatfield is right. Any man would probably just get shot."


"I am officially in charge, Mr. Johnson. Mr. Hatfield. So there won't be any further discussion of the matter."

And, with that, she marched to the door. At her imperious nod, one of Pat's apprentices opened it for her. A moment later, she was gone.

"Oh, hell's bells," said Pat.


* * *

Jochen Rau walked up to Anse. "Wili and Hennel are on their way to Grantville. We couldn't get a truck. Horton has one, but he's got it in the garrison compound. That's where the radio is, too."

"Damn." Anse shook his head.

"So Wili and Hennel they took the best horses we had." Rau grinned. "One of them was von Dantz's."

Anse chuckled. "So we're adding horse theft to the bargain, huh? Well, why not?"

He sent Jochen over to the tavern where he'd found Lieutenant Ivarsson. "See what he's up to—and, if you can, try to get him to come here."


Rau returned less than half an hour later. "Ivarsson's gone," he said. "Nobody seems to know where he went."

Anse muttered a curse under his breath. "What the hell is he playing at?"

Rau just shrugged.


An hour later, it started snowing. By nightfall, three inches of fresh snow had covered the town.


January 22, 1633

The business started not long after daybreak. The sky had cleared and the air was very crisp. The snow covering the streets muffled the sounds of moving men, but mercenary soldiers—this garrison, for sure—were usually not given to maintaining silence. So Anse could hear them coming a good two minutes before the first ranks came around the corner and started down the street.

By then, Anse had shifted his headquarters from Pat's factory to Blumroder's shop. He'd done that, partly, because Blumroder would be the immediate target; partly, because Blumroder's Jaeger were the men he relied on the most, outside of himself and Rau. But, mostly, simply to keep driving home the basic political point he was making.

Blumroder might be a conniving double-dealer—depending on how you looked at it—but he still had rights, until and unless they were removed from him legally. So, Anse would make his defense of those rights as visible and obvious as possible.

Von Dantz, surprisingly, was in the lead. Anse had expected to see Bruno Felder, since almost all of the soldiers following von Dantz were part of the Suhl garrison.

"You think von Dantz carried out a little mutiny of his own?" Anse wondered.

Standing next to him, looking through the same slit in the shutters, Blumroder shook his head. "I doubt it. Felder controls the paychest, and I don't think von Dantz is rich enough to buy a garrison."

Rau was at the next window. "Even if he is, he didn't bring enough money with him," he pointed out.

Anse decided they were right. Which meant . . .

His headshake was simply one of disgust. "Felder must have decided to straddle the fence. He let von Dantz—Oh, that son-of-a-bitch."

Anse had just spotted Johnny Horton, following von Dantz. "He let von Dantz and Horton call the shots. Let 'em have his garrison, but didn't come out himself. Stinking bastard."

Blumroder shrugged. As well he might. "Mercenary captain" and "man of principle" were not terms that were too often associated with each other, in the here and now. Often enough, mercenary captains were really more in the way of what could be called military contractors rather than what Anse thought of as "soldiers." Petty politics came naturally to them.

On the street outside, von Dantz halted his men when they were still forty yards from Pat Johnson's factory—more than fifty yards from Blumroder's shop next door. Apparently, he'd finally noticed that the shops on the street were shuttered and that the residents in the gunmakers' quarter looked to be willing to fight it out.

Von Dantz was close enough that Anse could see his face. For once, the arrogant captain's expression had some hesitation and uncertainty in it. Anse wondered what combination of emotions had led him to follow this course of action. By now, even a man as obtuse as von Dantz should have figured out that he was treading on very thin ice, politically speaking.

Ambition, of course. If he could demonstrate to his superiors that he had a flair for decisive action, he might get promoted. Anse had the feeling that General Kagg was far too intelligent a commander to be much impressed by simple "decisiveness." But Kagg had only recently come into command here, and von Dantz had no experience serving under him. If Anse remembered correctly, von Dantz had done most of his service under the Swedish general Banér—who had a reputation for being mule headed and was not much given to subtlety.

Still, there had to be more to it than that. Anse couldn't really know, of course, but he suspected that a lot of what was involved was simply festering resentment, finally boiling to the surface.

The uptimers grated on von Dantz, pure and simple. And if, here in Suhl, there was an uptimer even more hot-headed than he was, von Dantz would use him as a cover to vent his built-up frustration.

John Horton. Anse despised Johnny Horton. But why hadn't the army just detailed him off to go back to teaching math at the high school? Now—nearly a sure thing by the time this day was over—they'd be permanently down one more teacher that Grantville couldn't really afford to lose.

But his personal attitude toward Horton was neither here nor there. What really mattered, under the circumstances, Anse thought—was pretty critical, in fact—was that whatever happened there could be no accusation made afterward of favoritism based on origin.

He crooked a finger, summoning the Jaeger he'd already guessed was the best shot among them. If nothing else, from the easy way he held the rifle Pat had lent him, the hunter was apparently familiar with uptime weapons.

When the man came to the window and stooped to look through the slit, Anse pointed at the distant figure of Horton.

"You see him? The one in the camouflage outfit standing maybe five feet to von Dantz's left?"

The Jaeger nodded.

"If any shooting starts," Anse said harshly, "I want him dead."

The Jaeger studied him for a moment, then smiled thinly and nodded again.

Von Dantz's men were now starting to push forward around him, losing any semblance of a disciplined formation. There were perhaps three dozen of them, Anse estimated, which would be most of the entire garrison.

He took a slow, deep breath.

"Okay. I guess I oughta give them a formal warning."

"Why?" asked Rau, smiling even more thinly than the Jaeger had. "Just shoot them."

Anse didn't bother arguing the point. It'd be useless anyway, given Jochen's attitudes. The man was in the N.U.S. army—in fact, most of the time he was a very good soldier—but he did not and never had looked at the world from what Anse would consider a "proper military viewpoint."

There was no point delaying the matter, much as Anse was tempted to. He went to the front door of Blumroder's shop. After he passed through—making sure to leave it open behind him-he stepped forward three paces.

"Captain von Dantz!" he shouted. "Lieutenant Horton! I am now in command here in Suhl, and I order you—"

"Get fucked, Hatfield!" John Horton hollered back. His beefy face was almost bright red, either from anger or the cold, or both. "You're nothing but a warrant officer! As the ranking American here—"

"There's no such thing as a `ranking American,' Horton," Anse snarled. Under the circumstances, he saw no point in maintaining military protocol. "All there is, is legal authority under the laws of the New United States. Which I have, and you don't. Ms. Murphy would have showed you the documents."

"Fuck her, too!" came the answering shout. "Some bullshit papers, supposedly from Stearns. For all I know, you forged them. Means nothing!"

Horton stepped forward, pushing past von Dantz. He had his rifle in his left hand, and was pointing his finger angrily at Anse.

"I'm warning you, Hatfield! We're here to arrest a traitor. Dead or alive, it don't matter to me at all. You've got ten seconds to get out of the way or—"

A shot was fired, by one of the garrison mercenaries. Anse never saw where it went. He didn't think it was even aimed at anything. Just someone too nervous, in a situation that was too tense.

Immediately, a fusillade of shots rang out from the shuttered gunmaker shops. Four of the garrison soldiers fell, and several others were sent reeling.

Horton started to bring his rifle up to his shoulder. A bullet caught him in the ribs. He half-spun, dropping the rifle. His face turned toward Anse.

"Hey, what—" he started to say. Another bullet struck him in the jaw. There wasn't much left of his face by the time it fell into a snowdrift.

But Anse wasn't paying attention to Horton, any longer. Von Dantz raised his pistol and fired at him. Astonishingly, the down-time weapon was accurate enough for the bullet to knock Anse's cap right off his head. Anse was sure he'd—literally—felt the bullet parting his hair.

That was frightening. Anse sprawled into the snow, hurriedly bringing up his rifle for a prone shot. Once he got von Dantz in the sights, he saw that the German captain had drawn out another pistol.

Von Dantz fired again. The bullet grazed the back of Anse's boot and tore off the heel.

Jesus! Given the kind of guns he was using, von Dantz was turning out to be a goddam John Wesley Harding.

Then again, Harding got killed. With a modern rifle, at a range of less than fifty yards, Anse couldn't possibly miss.

He fired.

He missed.

A garrison soldier standing just behind von Dantz stumbled backward, flinging aside his musket. He'd been struck in the shoulder by Anse's shot.

Von Dantz was pulling out another pistol. If he'd been using a revolver instead of wheel locks, Anse would have been dead already.

Settle down, you idiot!

He jacked another round into the chamber, and forced himself to draw a real bead instead of just jerking the trigger.

Von Dantz was bringing up the pistol. Anse fired.

This time, the bullet hit von Dantz squarely, right in the chest. He was dead before he hit the ground.

By now, the gunfire in the street was almost deafening. The garrison soldiers were grouped in the center, shooting back at the shops from whose windows they were being fired upon.

Anse glanced back at the still-open door to Blumroder's shop. He decided he'd be safer lying prone in several inches of snow than trying to crawl back into the shop. The mercenaries were paying no attention to him, since he wasn't moving and they were taking a murderous fire from the shops.

As inconspicuously as he could, he jacked another round into the chamber.

There was no lack of targets for him, of course. On the other hand . . .

Right now, the enemy was ignoring him. Most of them probably thought he was dead. If he fired, on the other hand, they would notice him—and lying in the open, right out on the street, he was a sitting duck. More precisely, a prone duck.

He didn't think they were going to last much longer, anyway. Somewhere around a dozen of them had already been killed or wounded. Von Dantz and Horton had been idiots, leading their men straight into the street the way they had. The gunmakers and their apprentices and Jaeger were shooting from behind shelter—good shelter, too; the thick, sturdy walls of seventeenth-century German manufacturing shops—and they had an open field of fire. As battles went, it was completely one-sided.

So . . .

True, it was inglorious. Even ignominious. On the other hand, youth and its excess of testosterone were several decades behind him.

Anse laid his head down, and played dead. The situation wasn't critical and he wasn't Alvin York, anyway—as he'd just proved, by missing his first shot at von Dantz at point-blank range.

Besides, he consoled himself, he'd read once that after the battle of New Orleans was over, several hundred "dead" British soldiers had risen from Chalmette Field. Most of them completely uninjured. Veteran soldiers all—elite soldiers, even—they'd quickly realized that their commanders had led them into a bloodbath that they didn't have a chance of winning.

He was pretty sure the same thing had happened on just about every battlefield in history, at least since the invention of gunpowder.

Tradition, as it were. Inglorious as it might be.

He still felt like a damned fool.


Fortunately, it was all over within thirty seconds. The garrison soldiers broke, and began running away. They didn't slow down any, either, as they neared the safety of the next street over. The gunmakers of Suhl were in a fine fury, and kept firing on them the whole way.

Anse peeked up, then rose.

Blumroder came out of the door, smiling.

"You are a brave man, Herr Hatfield. And what is better, a very sensible one."

Anse gave him a look that was none too friendly. "I guess you've proved you're brave enough, yourself. We'll just have to see how sensible you are."

Blumroder's smile faded. Some, at least, if not enough to suit Anse.

A woman, followed by a man, came out of one of the shops farther up the street, carrying a musket. She marched over to one of the corpses lying in the snow, aimed the musket, and fired. Brains that had already been spilled were scattered still further.

The man with her went to another corpse. Aimed, fired. A dead man died again.

That both men had already been dead wasn't in question. In fact, it looked as if they'd each taken several bullets during the fighting. Those had already been the most shot-up corpses on the street.

"Hey!" said Anse. He didn't approve of mutilating corpses, and if this got out of hand . . .

Blumroder put a hand on his arm. "It is a personal matter, Herr Hatfield. The people in that shop were looking for two men in particular. It seems they found them."

"Oh." After a moment, Anse shrugged. It was a pretty crude form of justice, but . . .

What the hell. If he didn't feel any particular guilt over playing dead in the snow—which he didn't—he had no business getting all huffy and puffy about proper judicial procedure. As long as it didn't get out of hand, at least.

The woman and the man, methodically and stoically, reloaded their weapons. Then, fired again.

"That's enough!" he called out. "Genug!"

The couple raised their heads and looked at him. After a moment, the man nodded. The woman took a bit longer to make her decision. But she, too, turned and went back into their shop.

"Okay," Anse said. He looked up the street, in the direction of the garrison's compound. It was out of sight, but it wasn't more than a quarter of a mile away.

"Okay," he repeated. "I guess we'd better finish it."

Blumroder began shouting orders. Within a minute, dozens of gunmakers, apprentices and Jaeger were out in the street, lining up in a remarkably good military formation.

Perhaps not that remarkable, really. One of the things Anse had learned in the twenty months since the Ring of Fire was that a lot of his preconceptions of "law-abiding, orderly Germans" were myths. Or, maybe not myths so much as transposing the reality of a much later Germany onto the seventeenth century.

The truth was that, in a lot of ways, Anse felt quite at home among Germans of this day and age. Germany—"the Germanies," rather—was often a raucous and freewheeling sort of place. Just like good and proper West Virginians, most Germans who weren't dirt poor owned guns and knew how to use them. Most towns and many villages had a militia, just as surely—and with just as much civic pride—as they had their own printing presses.

True, there were differences. Already, Germans had a devotion to bureaucratic regulations and legal fussiness that precious few uptime Americans ever did. Outside of Washington, D.C., at any rate. Still, Germans of the seventeenth century had a lot more in common with the frontiersmen of pre-Civil War America, in terms of their basic attitudes, than they did with the regimented populace of a much later Prussia. The Jaeger would have found the old Mountain Men sadly rootless, but other than that, they wouldn't have had much trouble understanding them.

Anse led the way. Thankfully, nobody made any wisecracks about dead men lying in the snow being miraculously resurrected. After a while, he realized that very few of them had even noticed.

Rau had, of course.

"Very nice—what is that English word?—'dive,' I think."

"And what would you have done?" asked Anse crossly.

"Diven, of course. Only an idiot wouldn't."

"Dove," Anse corrected. "Or maybe it's `dived.'"

"Amazing that you aren't all idiots. Speaking the language the idiot way you do."


To Anse's relief, no further battle was necessary. As they neared the compound—a wooden fortress, basically, much like the forts put up by the nineteenth-century American army—he discovered that the routed garrison had already been intercepted by the city's militia before they could reach the shelter of their compound.

What must have happened, clearly enough, was that after Noelle gave the city authorities copies of her documents and explained the situation, they'd called out the militia. The militia would have mustered behind the city hall and had managed to get between the fleeing mercenaries and the entrance to the garrison compound.

Just as clearly, the garrison hadn't put up any resistance. After the bloodbath on the gunmakers' street, all the fight had been knocked out of them. They'd simply submitted to arrest.

The militia officers were standing there with their men. Those would be the ones who hadn't been in the gunmakers' street, and Anse hadn't already enrolled in his impromptu posse. Someone would have to sort that little problem out later, Anse thought. But, for the moment, the officers clearly had that look which proclaimed: awaiting further orders.

Lieutenant Ivarsson emerged from the compound's gates. Smiling very cheerfully.

"Good day, Herr Hatfield. How delightful to see that the new garrison commander has come to pay a visit."

Anse frowned at him. "Meaning no offense, but where have you been?"

Ivarsson jerked a thumb over his thick shoulder. "Inside, of course. Once von Dantz and Horton took out most of the garrison, that is. I thought it would be imprudent to make an appearance earlier."

Anse looked up at the walls of the compound. A couple of very nervous-looking soldiers were stationed up there. Holding their weapons, but carefully not pointing them at the militia outside the gates.

"Where's Felder? And what's more important—where is Noelle Murphy?"

Ivarsson's smile seemed as cheerful as ever. "The former commander of the garrison is sitting in his office. Waiting—eagerly, I assure you—to be relieved of his command. Fräulein Murphy is there with him. She is quite unharmed."

There was something very suspicious about that smile.

"I wouldn't think Felder—"

"Oh, certainly!" Ivarsson made an expansive gesture with his big hands. "At least, after I explained to him that he might—just barely—be able to persuade General Kagg that he simply couldn't stifle the mutiny led by the dastardly Captain von Dantz. If I put in a word for him."

Dastardly, no less. Ivarsson's English was really quite good.

"I believe he was also helped in seeing his proper course of conduct by Fräulein Murphy's presence. Although she is unharmed, she is rather furious, in her quiet sort of way. There were threats made, it seems, of a most lascivious variety. 0nce I removed the guards placed over her, I returned her pistol. She assures me that in the close quarters of Captain Felder's office, she can't possibly miss."

Anse laughed. "This, I want to see. All right, Lieutenant Ivarsson, please lead me there."


Noelle did, indeed, seem irate. At least, in her rather prim-and-proper manner of expressing most emotions. Her face was pale, and the pistol leveled at Felder didn't seem to waver at all.

"You okay?" he asked.

Her face got pinched. "Well. Yes. I suppose. They were very insulting. Well. That's not quite the right word, I guess. Filthy motherfuckers!"

The pistol did waver a bit, then. Quiver, rather, from the restrained fury of the slender hand that held it.

Felder's face was at least as pale as hers. His eyes had never once left the barrel of the gun, not even when Anse and Ivarsson came into the room.

"Felder?" Anse asked.

"No, not him," Noelle hissed. "Although he's still responsible. Some of his men. The two he had guarding me."

Anse turned to Rau, who was standing just beyond the door to the captain's office. "Track 'em down, Jochen."

"Shoot them?"

"No, that'd be illegal. Just see to their discipline."

Rau made something that might charitably be called a salute, and left. Anse turned back to Felder.

"You, asshole, are leaving here tonight. Under armed guard." He jerked his head toward the door. "Corporal Rau's guard, to be exact. I strongly recommend you behave yourself. I'll have Ms. Murphy write a letter to General Kagg and President Stearns. If you're lucky, you might keep your commission. I hope not, but I'm used to being disappointed in life."

Now, he turned to Ivarsson. "The big problem—"

Ivarsson was shaking his head before Anse even started talking. "That will not work, Herr Hatfield. You will need Corporal Rau in Suhl, to serve as your adjutant while you assemble a new garrison. The existing garrison is now useless, here. I will lead them out—perhaps I should say, what is left of them—and take them to Grantville."

He nodded toward Felder. "I will take him with me, also. Under armed guard, since that is your wish."

He gave Felder that same cheerful smile. "I do not believe Captain Felder will object. That would disappoint me, and, alas, I do not share your stoical attitude toward disappointment."

Ivarsson looked all of his size, that moment. Felder seemed to shrink still further in his chair.

Anse thought about it. With the entire garrison gone . . .

In the real world, that meant the new "garrison" would just be the existing Suhl militia—the master craftsmen and their adult sons, those journeymen and apprentices who were from Suhl's citizen families. Not most of the Jaeger, since few of them would be citizens of the town.

Granted, the militia would make a far better force to maintain order than Felder's mercenaries had been. But they'd be completely unreliable if it ever became necessary to crack down on the town's gunmakers. Most of them were the town's gunmakers.

Not to mention that over half of the city council consisted of master gunsmiths.

A return remembrance of that long-ago, overly-rich, eight-layer chocolate dessert attacked his stomach.

But all he said was: "All right. That's how we'll do it."


January 27, 1633

Gretchen Richter came into Suhl five days later, early in the evening, through the middle of a snowstorm. Not quite a blizzard, but awfully close. When she marched into Anse's headquarters—Felder's old office—she looked like a walking snowball.

Insofar, at least, as a snowball could resemble a very large and good-looking bat, coldly furious at having been summoned from a much warmer clime.

"Where are they?" were the first words out of her mouth, as she started brushing the snow off of her heavy parka. She seemed entirely unconcerned with the mess she was leaving on the floor of Anse's office.

Anse didn't try to play dumb. "We've got two of them under guard, here in the stockade. We're pretty sure the other four scampered back to their villages."

"Two will be enough. Where is Blumroder's shop?"

Anse cocked his head, eyeing her skeptically.

"Don't be stupid, Herr Hatfield." Gretchen edged aside, allowing Anse a view of the doorway. Jeff Higgins was standing there. Just behind him, Anse could see the dark figures of several other men. One of them was Jorg Hennel; the others he didn't recognize.

"I brought my husband with me, as you can see. Surely you don't think he would be a party to any illegal violence."

The look Anse gave Jeff Higgins was almost as skeptical as the one he'd given Gretchen. There wasn't much left of the shy geek Anse could vaguely remember from the days before the Ring of Fire. A lot of the fat had been lost, replaced by muscle—and Higgins was a big man. What was more important was that his mental attitudes had been largely transformed over the past twenty months. By reality, by combat—and, probably most of all, by being married to Gretchen.

It didn't help any that Higgins was carrying a shotgun. It might very well be the same shotgun he'd used, not so long ago, to gun down a number of Croat cavalrymen in close-range fighting.

Suddenly, Jeff grinned. And if it wasn't what you could call a shy grin, much less a geeky one, there wasn't any menace in it, either.

"C'mon, Anse, lighten up," he said. "Gretchen's mission here is purely educational."

Anse grunted. "Educational," under the circumstances, was not entirely reassuring. Just a few days earlier, with the help of half a dozen Jaeger, Jochen Rau had "educated" the two soldiers who'd subjected Noelle Murphy to their leering attentions. Both of them had been so badly beaten they'd had to be taken out of Suhl on litters.

Fell down the stairs, Rau claimed.

Still . . .

"Okay," he said. "As long as there's no violence. I'll have Corporal Rau release the two CoC prisoners. Then he can guide you to Blumroder's shop."

He rose to his feet. "No, hell with that. I'll do it myself."


By the time they arrived at Blumroder's shop, night had fallen. Blumroder himself ushered them into the main room of his living quarters. His wife and children—two sons and a daughter, all of them in their late teens or early twenties—were present, along with all four of his apprentices and the two Jaeger he still kept around as guards.

Once Gretchen, Jeff, Anse and the three CoC members came into the room, it seemed as packed tight as a shipping crate. It didn't help any that Gretchen forced the two CoC culprits—Hennel was the third one—to come to the center of the room.

She got right down to business. Turning to the two chastened CoC members, she pointed a finger at Blumroder.

"You will apologize to Herr Blumroder for trying to kill him."

Apologies babbled forth like a bubbling brook.

Gretchen now faced Blumroder.

"You will accept the apology."

She still looked like a half-frozen bat out of hell, and just as pissed. Blumroder didn't babble, but he did nod his head. He didn't even hesitate, for more than a second.

"That's the end of it, then," Gretchen pronounced. Turning back to the CoC miscreants, she jerked her head toward the door.

"Now, get out. Remember what I told you. From now on, you will listen to Jorg. And I'm leaving two other members of the CoC here also. One from Jena, one from Rudolstadt. Both are experienced, and good organizers. You will listen to them also."

Hastily—eagerly—the two youngsters made for the door.

"Moment," Gretchen growled. "You will also tell those other four idiots to come into Suhl and apologize personally to Herr Blumroder. If they don't, I will come back. You do not want me to come back."

They gave her a nervous nod, and vanished.

Gretchen swiveled to face Blumroder again. "I will leave now, Herr Blumroder. There will be no further misbehavior on the part of the CoC here."

He nodded again. "I accept your reassurance."

"Accept this also, then," she said coldly. "Within a few months, we are likely to be at war again. Many of our soldiers will die. One of them might be my husband. Some of them are certain to be my comrades in the Committees. If it is discovered that their deaths were due to the enemy having weapons that should never have been sold to them, there will be consequences."

Her icy gaze move away from Blumroder to fix on the two Jaeger. "Do not think you are the only ones who know how to shoot," she told them. "Or gut a carcass. And the Thueringerwald is not that big. Never think so."

The gaze came back to Blumroder. "You do not want me to return to Suhl, either."

She straightened a little, jerked the lapels of the parka to shed more snow on the floor, and was gone.

Her husband followed. At the threshhold, he paused, looked at Blumroder over his shoulder, and smiled cheerfully.

"You really don't, Herr Blumroder. Trust me on this one."


There was silence in the room, for a while, after the door was closed. Then Blumroder cleared his throat.

"Herr Hatfield, perhaps we should resume our interrupted conversation. The one concerning railroad work, and its prospects for Suhl."

"What a good idea," Anse said.

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