1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT — snippet 26

 

1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 26:

 

 

Chapter 15

 

 

Frankfurt am Main

 

            Solch eine Schlamperei!” Johann Wilhelm Dilich was screaming at the top of his lungs.

            Nathan Prickett wasn’t quite certain that there was one word that could translate all the nuances into English. It was carelessness combined with messiness combined with filthiness. Filthiness like dirt, not filthiness like porn. Maybe even a little recklessness, combined with quite a bit of fecklessness.

            The militia captain was looking horrified.

            The people who prepared bodies for burial had already come and gone.

            The demo was supposed to have been a showpiece. Showing off all the nice new gun-shaped toys the militia had been practicing with.

            It had been quite a bang. Amideutsch had coined a word. Boomenstoff. Stuff that went boom. Or bang. Or bam-bam-bam. Or blam. Most of the words that used to come with exclamation points after them in comic books.

            They’d been storing a lot of Boomenstoff in the bunker.

            That was a really big hole in the redoubt now.

            The bright spot was that they were south of the river, in Sachsenhausen. At least it hadn’t happened right downtown.

            Who in hell had taken a candle down into the bunker where the guys were loading? They weren’t even supposed to go down there wearing any iron, for fear of striking a spark. Dusty air was dangerous, even if the dust wasn’t gunpowder. Once, once when he was a kid, he’d managed a pretty good boom just by throwing a canister of his mom’s flour up into the air. Everybody knew about grain elevators. Well, the down-timers didn’t have grain elevators.

            But it was all spelled out in the manual. Line by line, word for word.

            Fat lot of good that had done.

            Seven men dead. For a couple of them, they wouldn’t find enough to bury. That included the guy with the candle, whoever he’d been. They could probably identify him by a process of elimination. Figure out who everyone else was, alive and dead. He’d be the one they couldn’t account for. Forty-three injured, including two officers from patrician families.

****

            The muttering in taverns throughout Frankfurt had started the evening after the catastrophe at the Sachsenhausen redoubt.

            There was always some level of resentment of the ghetto in the city, because of its size. Except for possibly Nürnburg, Frankfurt had the largest Jewish population of any city in the Germanies. The last time it really boiled over had been twenty years before, during the so-called Fettmilch revolt.

            The Jews. It must have been the Jews.

            It didn’t make any sense. Nathan ran his hand through his hair. There had not been a single Jew involved.

            They must have contaminated the powder.

            How in hell could they have done that? It was kept in the magazine in Sachsenhausen.

            They changed the instructions in the manual on how to handle it somehow. Left out a step. Or added one, maybe, so the next one didn’t work right. Just enough that our sons and brothers would have to suffer.

            The manual was perfectly good. What’s more, the militia captain had promised to have all the men read it. That he would drill them in the procedures.

            And he had kept his promise.

            It had been plain, ordinary, contrary, human stupidity. Pilot error, as people said.

            The up-timer. He is called Nathan. His name is Jewish.

            Nathan had a suspicion that they wouldn’t be a bit more pleased when they found out that he was Methodist. He picked up his pen.

 

            Dear Don Francisco.

            You wouldn’t believe what is going on here. Or, maybe you would.

 

            This was going to be a long letter.

 

 

On the Reichsstrasse between Fulda and Steinau

 

            The two drivers and three mechanics were patching a tire on the rear ATV. Again. This time, it had taken a sharp rock.

            About fifty or sixty men from the Fulda Barracks Regiment were watching with great interest. It was taking a while. The patch kit had been sitting on a shelf in someone’s garage ever since inner tubes went out of style, up-time. The patches weren’t for this kind of tire. The goop wasn’t what it had once been.

            Henry Dreeson was sitting on a different rock, waiting for them to finish. Margie and her husband had taken a trip to Europe once, back up-time. A package tour. Afterwards, the next time she came home to Grantville for a visit, she’d brought a video for her parents to watch. If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. That was the title, or something like it.

            He was beginning to understand what his daughter’s excursion must have been like.

            “Where are we?” he asked Martin Wackernagel.

            “About five miles northeast of Steinau an der Strasse. On the Reichsstrasse, that is. That’s where we’ll be spending the night.

            “Wackernagel, I hate to tell you this, but if by the word Reichsstrasse you folks mean something like ‘superhighway,’ the follow-through on construction leaves something to be desired.”

            Cunz Kastenmayer, always the peacemaker, said, “You have to admit that it is much better than some of the rural roads we have traveled during the past two weeks in Buchenland county.”

            Dreeson nodded a little reluctantly. “Yep. Some of them were worse than anything I’d seen since about, oh, 1950 or 1960 in up-time West Virginia. Before the War on Poverty. Thank God for four wheel drive.”

            A couple of horses came in sight around the bend behind them. The riders stopped suddenly. They had planned to lag back far enough that the motorcade never spotted them.

            Derek Utt was looking back. “Jeffie,” he yelled. “Jeffie, what in hell?”

            Jeffie Garand—Sergeant Garand now, Henry reminded himself—was moving up to face his commander.

            “Ah. Um. Well, Gertrud and her stepmother wanted to come along to see the sights in Frankfurt, since the rest of us are going. I know you always say ‘no camp followers,’ but that’s not exactly it. They’re going to find a different inn to stay at, everywhere we stop, and they’re paying their own way.”

            Utt looked around again. “Sergeant Hartke, did you know about this?”

            Helmuth Hartke, father of Gertrud and husband of Dagmar, came forward. Dragging his feet a bit. “No, Sir.” He cleared his throat. “I understand the problem, Sir. Dagmar really shouldn’t be riding right now. In her condition.”

            Utt groaned and looked at Henry Dreeson.

            He didn’t have to ask. “Sure,” Henry said. “We’ll be glad to give her a place in the car. I’m sure Martin won’t mind riding her horse the rest of the way into Frankfurt. He rides the Reichsstrasse all the time. It’s his job.”

            Jeffie looked at Gertrud. Then at Wackernagel. He’d picked up a couple of rumors about the courier, when it came to girls. That’s all they were, rumors, but…

Gertrud was his girl. He looked at Derek Utt.

            “Maybe Gertrud oughta ride in the car with Dagmar? In case that she has, you know, female troubles, or something. Cunz can ride the other horse.”

            Derek sighed, waved one hand, and proclaimed, “So be it.”

About Eric Flint

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