THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN CONNECTION – snippet 6:
Janos Drugeth’s agents in Grantville, the Englishmen Henry Gage and Lion Gardiner, seemed bound and determined to waste more time continuing the recriminations.
“In particular,” said Gage with exasperation, “I told you to stay away from the Barlow family!”
Gardiner scowled at him. “And I did—until I was approached by Neil O’Connor, who is part of the affair because you recruited his father Allen.”
Gage looked defensive. “We need the O’Connors. Between the father’s knowledge of steam engines and the son’s experience working on aircraft, they’ll be invaluable. And we need Peter Barclay and his wife, too. They both have experience in mechanical design.”
“We don’t need—”
Gage threw up his hands. “Of course we don’t need their crazy daughter! But the Barclays insisted that their children had to be part of the bargain, or they wouldn’t agree.” Sullenly, he added: “It’s not my fault. It’s certainly not my fault that the oldest girl Suzi Barclay lives in a state of sin with Neil O’Connor, and she told him, and he told his father, and—”
He broke off there. Gardiner picked it right up, now with a sneer on his face.
“—and she also told her friend Caryn Barlow, who is almost as crazy as she is—not surprising, being the daughter of Jay Barlow—and she told her father and there we were. In the soup.”
“Enough,” said Janos stolidly. Rubbing the back of his neck, he looked around the small apartment his two subordinates had been renting on the outskirts of Grantville. At least they had enough sense to be packed and ready to go. “This is pointless—and we have little time remaining.”
He gave Gardiner a cold eye. “Do restrain your indignation. It was you, after all, who recruited the Simmons fellow. Who has no skills I am aware of beyond embezzlement—and paltry skills at that, judging from the evidence.”
It was Gardiner’s turn to look defensive. “That wasn’t my doing. The O’Connors insisted that their employee Timothy Kennedy should be included also. Seeing as he was very skilled in the steam work and was now disaffected from his wife—”
Seeing his chance, Gage interrupted with a sneer. “Who just happens to be the sister of Anita Masaniello, who just happens to be the wife of Steve Salatto, who just happens to be the American official in charge of administering Franconia.”
Gardiner glared up. “As I recall, you thought recruiting Kennedy was a good idea at the time yourself. He seemed tight-lipped enough. How was I—or you—to know that he was good friends with Mickey Simmons and Simmons was up to his neck—”
“Enough!” growled Janos. He wiped his face tiredly. Part of his weariness was due to the rigors of the hard and fast journey he’d made from Vienna, much of which had been on horseback through forests and mountains to evade the USE’s border patrols. Most of it, though, was simply weariness at the whole business.
He was still aggravated by Istvan’s foolishness in having hired these two English adventurers as his direct agents in Grantville, as much as he was aggravated by the adventurers themselves. But, being fair to all parties, he also recognized that most of the problem was simply due to the nature of the work involved. This miserable business the Americans called “covert operations.”
True, Gardiner and Gage were mercenary adventurers. On the other hand, they spoke fluent—now even idiomatic—English in a town of English speakers whose usage of the language was eccentric to begin with, by seventeenth century standards. It was doubtful that any regular Austrian agents could have penetrated so deeply and quickly into the disaffected elements among the Americans. That was true even leaving aside the thugs who infested the so-called Club 250, who were automatically suspicious of any central Europeans. None of the thugs themselves were of any particular interest to Austria, which could recruit plenty of thugs of its own. But the Club 250 served as something of a liaison venue for other disaffected up-timers that Austria was interested in. Gage and Gardiner could go there easily. Between their excellent knowledge of the American idiom and the fact they were English—for reasons still somewhat murky to Drugeth, the American bigots who patronized the Club 250 made an exemption for Englishmen—the two of them could habituate the place where, if Janos went himself, he’d likely face a fracas.
True, also, many—no, most; perhaps all—of the Americans they were seeking to recruit were not what any sane man would consider upright and moral persons. At best, their guiding motives were nakedly mercenary. For some of them, such as Simmons, you could add a desire to escape apprehension by the SoTF’s authorities for criminal activity. For others, like the O’Connors and their employee Timothy Kennedy, their extravagant and careless spending habits had led them to drive a seemingly prosperous business into a state of near-bankrupcy.
As for the “craziness” of the Suzi Barclay girl, a subject on which both Gage and Gardiner could expound at length, what was to be expected from the offspring of such parents?
He rubbed his face again. In the end, all the problems were simply inherent to the business itself. If a man insists on sticking his hand into a marsh looking for gold, he can hardly be surprised if he retrieves filth and leeches as well as the gold he was looking for.
There was gold there, sure enough. Being fair to the two. Whatever the moral and mental characteristics of the up-timers whom Gage and Gardiner had recruited to move to Vienna and provide the Austrian empire with technological skills and advice, there was no question that they’d assembled an impressive group. Amongst them, there was extensive knowledge of American machining techniques, mechanical design, and steam engine design, not to mention the seemingly-ubiquitous knowledge that American males had with regard to automobile engines. There was even a fair knowledge of aircraft principles, something which was in scant supply even among Americans.
Still, it was a mess. The original plan had been modified after the end of the war between the USE and the League of Ostend brought a period of peace. That, combined with the outcome of the Congress of Copenhagen and the decision of the SoTF to relocate its capital from Grantville to Bamberg, was producing a massive wave of emigration of Americans out of Grantville to other parts—and not all of them to somewhere else in the USE. It seemed as if every nation in Europe had launched a recruitment program here, even the French.
Most of those who chose to leave the USE, of course, went to either Prague or Copenhagen or the Netherlands. Bohemia and Denmark were allied to the USE; and, while the new kingdom in the Low Countries was not, it enjoyed quite friendly relations these days. Nowhere in Europe had the now-romantic figure of the Netherlands’ new queen Maria Anna assumed such legendary proportions as it had in Grantville. “The Wheelbarrow Queen,” they called her, often enough. Even the rambunctious and surly commoners of Magdeburg seemed inclined to favor the Netherlands, monarchy or not.
Janos had hopes that, eventually, that same romanticism might help relations between the USE and his own nation. Maria Anna was, after all, a daughter of the Habsburgs and one of the new emperor’s two sisters. At one time—not more than a few months ago—an archduchess of Austria itself.
It was too early for that, of course. Everyone in the USE was expecting a new war to begin the coming spring, with Saxony and Brandenburg, and everyone was assuming—accurately, alas, unless Janos could persuade the emperor otherwise—that Austria would weigh in on the side of the USE’s enemies. Still, Janos had hoped to keep tensions between Austria and the USE, especially its Americans, to a minimum. Sooner or later, he was sure Austria would have to seek peace with the USE, and he didn’t want any more in the way of festering anger than was inevitable in the course of a war.
So, clearly and unequivocally, he’d told Istvan Janoszi to instruct his agents to keep any transfer of personnel and equipment from Grantville within the limits of the law, as the Americans saw it.
That hadn’t seemed too difficult a project, at the time. The up-timers had sweeping notions on the subject of personal liberties, which included the right to emigrate and included the right to maintain personal property in the process. The key figures, the O’Connors and the Barclays, were in a position to do that. Simply move themselves and their businesses to Vienna. Impossible, of course, to move the actual physical plants, but they could certainly take with them all of their technical designs—“blueprints,” those seemed to be called—and even much of the moveable equipment. Over time, if not immediately.
Unfortunately, what Janos hadn’t foreseen was the inevitability of what followed. Like anything dragged out of a swamp, be it gold-colored or not, the Barlows and the O’Connors were sticky. They had relatives and friends, the relatives and friends had their own such—and among them, what a surprise, were some individuals whom no one in their right mind would want to encourage to move into his own country.
And so, a legal enterprise had become an illegal one. Not only were some of these people going to be fleeing the authorities of the USE, they were going to be taking goods and possessions with them that they had no legal right to take.
For a moment, Drugeth considered simply forbidding any such goods. But he dismissed the idea almost as soon as it came to him. First, because that was bound to produce a quarrel with the would-be emigrants, and there was no time left for such a quarrel. Secondly, even more simply, because Drugeth really had no way to know which goods were legal and which weren’t, in the first place. Once the expedition got to the Austrian border, he had a large cavalry unit waiting to escort them all the rest of the way to Vienna. But from here to the border, he’d have only Gage and Gardiner to assist him in keeping control over the up-timers.
What was he to do? Insist on a search of the wagons, not even knowing what he was looking for?
It was just a mess, that’s all. A marshy muck. But Janos had crossed marshes and swamps often enough, since he took the Austrian colors. Though he was only twenty-five years old, he had plenty of experience as a soldier. He figured he could manage this, well enough.
“Tomorrow morning, then,” he said. “We start to leave as early as possible.”