1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 20:
He looked down and scuffed his boot across the surface of the road. “Then there’s this little problem. You did notice these are cobblestones?”
She looked down. “Um. Yeah.”
“And exactly how many cobblestoned airstrips have you ever seen?”
“There’s a reason for that.” He lifted his own, much thicker hand, and shook it up and down sharply. “Cobblestones are contraindicated for landing gear.”
The two CoC craftsmen standing next to them looked at each other. Their expressions were dubious.
“Hard to pull up all these cobblestones and lay new ones,” said the taller of the two.
“And then they wouldn’t be as solidly set,” added his companion.
Eddie had already figured that much out for himself. “How about paving it?”
The two craftsmen looked at each other again.
“We don’t have enough asphalt,” said the one on the left. His name was Wilbart Voss.
“Not nearly enough,” said his partner, Dolph Knebel.
Eddie shook his head. “I don’t really need a regular landing strip. The cobblestones would made a solid foundation if we could just fill it in with gravel to even out the surface. Then, level it with a roller.”
The craftsmen exchanged glances again. That seemed to be a necessary ritual before their brains engaged.
“How wide?” asked Voss.
Eddie started walking slowly toward the big square to the north. “I’d want a minimum of forty feet. I’d be a lot happier with sixty.”
Knebel made a face. “That’s… about three hundred tons of gravel.”
His partner was more sanguine, however. “Not so bad,” said Wilbart. “There’s plenty of gravel in the area and with everyone coming into the city for shelter from Báner we’ve got a lot of wagons and manpower. A strong wind might blow some of it away, though.”
Eddie had already considered that problem. “If need be, I figured we can coat it with pine tar. But I don’t think it’ll be necessary. Between building the strip and repairing the plane, there’s no chance we’d be able to use it until January or February. By then, there’ll be snow holding the gravel in place. Just have to pack down the snow. Really well.”
Denise chimed in. “Hey, I just thought of something, Eddie. You could land and take off on skis instead of wheels.”
Junker’s jaws tightened a little. His girlfriend had a great deal of confidence in his ability to do most anything. As a rule, this was a pleasant state of affairs. There were times when it was awkward, however.
“There is no way I am using skis. I have been flying for only a few months, and I have no experience — none at all — with skis. On a plane, I mean. I know how to ski myself, of course.”
“You don’t have any skis for the plane anyway, do you?” asked Minnie.
“Can’t be hard to make,” said Denise, reluctant as always to give up one of her pet schemes.
“I am not using skis. If we can’t do it the usual way, then we simply won’t do it at all.” Eddie shrugged. “Which we probably won’t, anyway, if we lose the airstrip outside the city. This whole idea of flying in and out of the city’s square borders on lunacy to begin with.”
Denise didn’t argue the point. It’d be pretty hard for her to do so, given that her first reaction upon hearing that the CoC was thinking of building an airstrip inside the city walls was pungent, explosive, and consisted mostly of the Amideutsch variant of every four-letter Anglo-Saxon term known to man and girl.
“It might all be a moot point,” said Minnie. “They probably can’t fix the plane anyway.”
Eddie had crashed the plane when he landed it on the jury-rigged strip outside the city a few weeks earlier. He’d blamed the condition of the soil. More precisely, he’d blamed the girls for having assured him the soil was suitable. They had their own opinion, of course.
The most serious damage had been to the propeller, which had been completely destroyed. There was no way to replace it with the tools and equipment available in Dresden, so Eddie’s employer Francisco Nasi was having a new propeller shipped in from Grantville.
Smuggled in would be a better way to put it. The Swedish general Johan Báner had already announced a blockade on any goods coming into Dresden. His army was still too far away to enforce the blockade systematically, but he had a number of cavalry patrols searching for contraband. Given their relative few numbers, the cavalrymen weren’t trying to interdict all goods, just those that had military uses. Presumably, Nasi had had the propeller hidden some way or another. Still, it was taking time to get it into Dresden.
In the meantime, a number of the city’s artisans had started working on repairing the damage to the plane’s structure. That was slow-going, partly from lack of the right tools and supplies, but mostly because none of them had any good idea what they were doing.
Neither did Eddie, really. He was on the radio almost every night talking to Bob Kelly, the plane’s designer. At the rate they were going, he didn’t expect to have the plane ready to fly again until mid-winter.
By then, the way things were looking, Báner would have Dresden under siege and the airfield outside the city’s walls might as well be on the moon.
So, this project had been launched to jury-rig an airstrip in the central square. It was a project that Eddie considered just barely this side of insane. The only reason he’d agreed to it — a reason he kept entirely to himself — was that if worse came to worst and Báner’s army breached the walls and began sacking the city, Eddie would try to fly himself, Denise, Minnie and Noelle Murphy out of Dresden. If they crashed and died, as they most likely would, the women would still be better off than they would in the hands of the Swedish general’s mercenaries in the midst of a rampage. At least it’d be quick.
“You’re looking awfully solemn,” Denise said, in a teasing tone of voice.
“He thinks we’re probably all going to die,” piped up Minnie, “but it’s sort of okay because this way it’ll be over fast. He’s a pretty stoic guy.”
Denise curled her lip. “I don’t hold with philosophy.”
“Which is itself a philosophical proposition,” said Eddie mildly.