1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 42

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 42

Chapter 15

Tetschen, near the border between Saxony and Bohemia

The plane taxied over to the newly built hangar and came to a stop just before the open doors. Soon thereafter, a figure emerged out of the cockpit. When Jeff Higgins recognized who it was, he whistled softly.

“To what do we owe the honor of a visit by Jesse Wood himself?” he said.

Standing next to him, Thorsten Engler made no reply. He figured they’d find out soon enough.

When Jesse came up, he shook both their hands. “Good afternoon, Colonel Higgins. Captain Engler.”

“Not that it isn’t always nice to see you, Jesse, but since when does the air force send its commander to fly routine reconnaissance patrols?” Jeff asked.

Colonel Wood gave him an exasperated look. “Don’t play stupid, Jeff. This is hardly ‘routine.’ We’re on the edge of a civil war, in case you hadn’t noticed. I wanted to see how things stood for myself. I’m flying down to Prague as soon as we’re done here to meet with Mike.”

“Let’s get inside,” said Higgins. He gestured toward the airfield’s administration building. It was a small two story edifice that officially served as:
The field’s weather station — with no equipment beyond a mercury thermometer and a crude barometer.

Its control tower — with nothing to control; Wood’s plane was the first one to ever land here.

Its radio tower — with no radio capable of reaching Dresden or Prague except under perfect conditions.

Its only real function so far, a place to get out of the cold and warm up over a pot of tea. There was quite a comfortable lounge on the bottom floor.

“Would you like me to have your plane rolled into the hangar, Colonel?” Thorsten gestured at a small ground crew standing in the hangar’s wide doorway.

Jesse shook his head. “I won’t be here that long. I need to get to Prague before nightfall, while the weather holds up.”


“…burning everything north of the river, so far as I could see,” Jesse concluded. He drained his tea cup and set it down on the side table next to his chair. Then, gave Higgins a look that somehow managed to combine respect and derision.

“Don’t know as I’d want to be sleeping in the same bed with your wife, Jeff. You’re so much crispy bacon if she ever gets really pissed at you.”

Jeff grinned. “Just call her Gasoline Gretchen — except she wouldn’t waste the gasoline. She knows how to use an ax. Give her husband forty whacks and then turn the bed into kindling.”

He seemed quite unperturbed by the peril.

Jesse studied him for a moment, and then looked toward the corner where the radio was perched on a bench. “Will it reach Dresden or Prague?”

“Only sometimes, and unpredictably. We’re nestled in the mountains here.” Thorsten glanced at Jeff. When he saw that his commanding officer’s posture didn’t seem to indicate any reservation about the air force colonel, he added: “But we have other ways to stay in regular touch with the people in the city.”

“Midnight derring-do, eh? Ninjas slipping through the walls in the dead of night.” Wood flicked his fingers, as if brushing something away. “None of my business.”

Thorsten had no idea what a “ninja” was. A superb spy of some kind, he presumed.

In point of fact, although they did maintain a small cadre of military couriers who could make the journey overland to Dresden very quickly, their normal method of staying in touch with Gretchen and her people was simply to use a courier from one of the private postal services. Such men were excellent riders and quite discreet.

They couldn’t be bribed or tortured successfully either, since the messages were apparently innocuous. In fact, by and large they were innocuous, just the communications of a husband and his wife. If and when they needed to say something else, Jeff had sent her a one-time pad. The cipher had been designed by David Bartley. It turned out the youthful financier had been fascinated with cryptography since boyhood.

“What do you plan to do, Jesse?” Jeff asked abruptly. “If — oh, let’s cut the bullshit — when the civil war breaks out.”

The air force commander’s eyes moved to the window. Not looking at anything in particular, just keeping an eye on the weather.

“To be honest, I’m not sure. Admiral Simpson thinks we should both stay neutral. Mind you, that would include refusing to obey any orders — even ones from the prime minister — that would get us involved. So I guess we could still be accused of mutiny.”

“Neither Wettin nor Oxenstierna is that stupid,” said Jeff. “They’re acting as if they were right now, but they’re not. They know perfectly well the most they can hope for from the USE navy and air force — not to mention the USE army — is to stay neutral. They’ll be using nothing but Swedish mercenary troops and whatever they can get from the provincial armies.”

“Have to be careful about that last, too,” said Thorsten. “Or the SoTF will throw its army into the fight, and it’s probably stronger than any of the provincial forces except possibly Hesse-Kassel’s.”

“No, it won’t,” said Jesse. “I’ve talked to Ed Piazza about it, not more than a week ago. He’s expecting the Bavarians to attack the Oberpfalz if — when — the civil war starts. It’s got no protection left except Engels’ regiment, since Oxenstierna ordered Banér to march his troops into Saxony. If they do, he doesn’t see where he has any choice but to commit the SoTF army against them.”

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39 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 42

  1. G Bayrit says:

    And so three more pieces of the puzzle drop into place.

  2. Olav says:

    I especially like the part about the airfield, nothing for working but a comfortable lounge!

  3. dave o says:

    Simpson thinks we should remain neutral? Really? Or does Wood misinterpret what he said? And WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE KATRINA? Taking her across the Baltic and to Magdeburg doesn’t sound neutral to me.

    And if neutral, why is Wood flying to Prague to talk with Mike?

  4. Stephen says:


    What is Wood doing flying to Prague?

    First, Wood didn’t say what he would do if war broke out. I don’t expect he’d have any trouble whatsoever getting the entire air force to go along with anything he decided, though.

    Second, there isn’t a civil war yet, so there’s no reason for him not to be flying anywhere he wants. And even if he does stay neutral in the event of a civil war, it would almost surely be neutral-nudging-towards-supporting-Mike. (“Gee, while we were doing training flights, we happened to observe the following…”)

    Where does that leave Katrina? In an ironclad that was officially designated to the UNION OF KALMAR, under either her own authority or Christian’s authority. Simpson isn’t taking her across the Baltic; he’s simply committed to NOT intercepting her.

    Olav: yes, the description of the airfield building was rather amusing. As was the touch about David’s designing their codes, which makes a lot of sense. (Not that I’d have been remotely surprised if Jeff had picked up some cryptography as part of playing some sort of espionage game….)

  5. Willem Meijer says:

    why send Gretchen something so blatant as a one-time-pad? Send a stack of unsolved sudokus!

  6. laclongquan says:

    There’s only one pad of that kind in Jeff’s possession and Gretchen know it. What is so blatant about it?

    On the other hand: sudoku? You think that wont raise red flags from there to berlin?

  7. Jan B says:

    #3 Taking the heir to the throne across the Baltic is neutral enough. She or he had at the time got no legal order (or any otehr one for that matter) from any USE above them in the chain of command to do otherwise. And crossing the Baltics is as such not a hostuile act, even if a allied powe try to stop it.
    Christin can be acting against the Swedish law (if Ox got the Swedish regency counsil working and are acting for it when commanding Christina to berlin), but both she and Simpson is well within what they are allowed within the USE law and Simpson isn’t subject to Swedish law

  8. Jan B says:

    That said it would be stupid to stay neutral, getting the Navy and Airforce “in line” (=under proper noble control) would be very high on the agenda if OX & WW would win. That may (or may not) leave Simpson still in command (properly hobbled) but hardly Woods.

  9. Jeff Ehlers says:

    Wood is paraphrasing his conversation with Simpson. At no time did Simpson actually say “we should both stay neutral” (at least not in snippet 23, which is when the relevant part of the conversation happened). What he actually said was that he thought Wettin would start breaking the law and then Stearns would toss it aside as well. Then he said that he didn’t know if he’d take Stearns’s side, it would depend on the circumstances, but that he absolutely would not do Oxenstierna’s dirty work for him.

    That’s not “staying neutral”. That’s toeing the line – which is as it should be. There’s a term for when military officers conspire against the legitimate civilian leadership of a country. And that would be just as much of a betrayal of the CoCs and the democratic process as what Oxenstierna is setting up to do.

    The point is that it’s not likely that either Simpson or Wood are going to stay completely out of the civil war. They’re just not going to get involved until after things start to blow up (maybe literally).

  10. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @5, @6 — The Ring of Fire happened OTL in 2000. Although Sudoku was around long before the year 2000, it wasn’t really popular until 2005. It is quite possible that Jeff knew nothing about it.



  11. dave o says:

    On further consideration, neither the air force or navy is likely to have much of an effect on the coming civil war. The brown water navy dominates the lower Elbe, but probably can’t reach Dresden. Ox’s people won’t be using the Elbe to attack Dresden anyway. Some of his people may try to use local troops to attack Hamburg, or even Magdeburg, but I don’t think they can accomplish much. Simpson can perhaps dominate the Baltic, depending on the weather, but Ox doesn’t seem to be relying on troops from Sweden anyway. The air force can do scouting, but I don’t think that’s liable to be critical. It doesn’t have the weapons to do much to troops on the ground,- only rockets and light bombs, Unless someone comes up with napalm or greek fire, or a way to equip planes with machine guns and build them in time to make a difference.

  12. Phillip Chesson says:

    If Von Armpin coumes out of Lepzeig, then Higgins has the legal excuse to intervene since at last count Von Armin was engaged in hostilities against GAII and the USE. Baner does not have the writ to enter into any kind of arrangement with a hostile force. At little air spotting and Jeff could hit Von Arpin in the rear, roll him up, and, thus, secure all of Saxony except for the “scorched earth” environs of Dresden. Even if Higgins doesn’t have the strength to confront Baner directly, his regimental combat team can deny Baner freedom of movement and, in effect, “besiege” Baner in the open.

  13. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    @9 Absolutely right, Simpson and Woods are ‘toeing the line’ as they are required to by their oaths and the situation. They can’t do more right now, and per their willingness to help Christina get across the Baltic, they won’t do less (i.e. nothing that actively helps Ox).

    @8 and @10 It’s a civil war. Control of the lower Elbe influences the political security of Hamburg, ‘Prince’ Frederick, Calenburg, and Magdeburg Province, and extends influence towards the Rhine and Hesse-Kassell. It also establishes a logistical base for the ‘progressives’ to threaten Berlin. It has approximately the same effect on Ox’s military situation that the loss of the Mississippi had on the Confederacy in the US Civil war.

    Likewise, in a civil war where multiple armies are rapidly moving in combat theaters ranging from Saxony to Berlin to Oberpfalz to Swabia and the Rhine, I cannot imagine that aerial scouting would ever be unimportant. Even more important will be the ability to move people and messages by air — Radio is not yet the be all and end all of communication for 16C people. Some will require written communication and even the personal touch of face to face negotiations before they make up their minds in this succession crisis.

  14. Blackmoore says:

    @dave o
    and it’s winter, flight is going to be risky.

    Even then I think Woody is looking for a reason to help Mike, while the more conservative Simpson would only show his favoritism in the form of ignoring orders. but I expect he would have his troops repel direct attacks/ takeover attempts at bases and ships – however unlikely that would be.

    Do you think that Simpson would have his ships attack Sweedish ships with troops bound for a USE location? or would he just steer them to another port?

  15. Vince says:

    I wonder if David Bartley has a copy of “The Codebreakers” by David Kahn. It was available as early as the mid 1970’s. It is an excellent book on the history of code and cipher making and breaking.

  16. Doug Lampert says:

    Re codes. You don’t NEED to be a cryptography guy to make an unbreakable one time pad.

    In fact using a one time pad in 1635 is an admission that you think you’re a really BAD crypto guy, because it means that you don’t trust that you can come up with any other encrypt method that someone else can’t break.

    To make an unbreakable one time pad. You just need to know what one is, a random number generator (two differently colored dice will do), and enough time and paper to record a key at least as long as the combined length of EVERY message that might ever be sent between EVERY pair of people who might need to talk.

    That’s the WHOLE POINT of a one-time-pad. It’s secure because code breaking works on repetative elements in the code or encryptation, and the key to a one time pad is random with no repetition to work on.

    Once you know the basic concept any idiot can make a 100% unbreakable except by getting physical access to the other side’s key pad.

    (WARNING: Do not use your computer’s random number generator to make your one time pad, it’s not actually random.)

  17. Todd Bloss says:

    A book code would have been a better choiice for Jeff and Gretchen. They’d each just need the same copy of a book and an easy to memorize key. -A pair of uptime Gideon Bibles would be a good choice or maybe the license agreement from a copy of Windows 98 (that thing was half an inch thick and written in seven languages).

  18. Todd Bloss says:

    Better yet, two paperback copies of Follet’s “The Key to Rebecca” :)

  19. Robert Krawitz says:

    @Doug, the cryptosystem needs to be simple enough that it can be used in the field without a computer. So Diffie-Hellman key exchange is out. And doing a one time pad correctly isn’t quite as simple as it looks at first blush (why can’t I just use my preferred version of the bible as the OTP?). And you have to make sure that there’s a recovery in case a message gets lost that’s a bit more tractable than “try every position since the last one”. And that both Jeff and Gretchen know how to use it correctly (Jeff was an uptime nerd, so this might not be a big deal to him, but it might be less familiar to Gretchen. Then again, Gretchen is a printer’s daughter, and printers in that era weren’t simply type monkeys).

    Key management and user training are important parts of any effective cryptosystem, no matter how basic. Use the strongest symmetric key system in ECB mode and you’ve just wasted much of your effort. I’m sure David did a lot more than just throw a pair of dice a few thousand times, write down the results, and hand it over to Jeff and Gretchen.

  20. dave o says:

    #13 Blackmore: I agree that Woody is looking for an excuse to help Mike. It’s hard to imagine another reason for him to fly to Prague. Simpson knows what side he’s not on,- Ox’s side. He’s just not sure that he’s on Mike’s side instead. I think it’s very unlikely that any of his bases will be attacked in the first months of a civil war, and I don’t think that it will last much longer. (but that’s what people said in our civil war) If it gets to the point that troops are shipped from Sweden, he will have chosen sides. Probably Mike’s. “I don’t say that they can’t invade, just not by sea.”

    #12 Ed: I don’t see how command of the lower Elbe threatens Berlin. Direct naval action requires sailing around Denmark and up the Oder. as far as it can be navigated. And there’s no inland waterway connecting Elbe and Oder. Yeah, command of the river increases FOJ security in the central and northern part of USE. I’m not so sure about the Rhineland.

  21. Doug Lampert says:

    @18 you can’t use the bible as your pad because it is available to people other than the pad users.

    Which means it is not a one time pad by the normal definition. It also isn’t random. It COMPLETELY fails to be a one time pad. As for missed messages, you simply include, in PLAIN TEXT, at the start of each message, Start at Page 5, entry 56. Since you are destroying the pads as you use them and there are only two copies this doesn’t help anyone else.

    Similarly the training is EASIER than for any other encrypt. You don’t need to do ANYTHING to derive the encrypt value for each letter, you just use the next spot. It really is the simplest possible encrypt, but it’s a royal pain to prepare the pads, which means no one will do it by hand if they think anything else will work.

  22. Robert Krawitz says:

    @18, in regards use of the bible as a one-time pad, exactly my point. But you have to know a little something about it to know why. It might not be obvious (note the suggestions about use of uptime books for that purpose — which crossed with my post). The one time pad really does have to be random, or you might be able to analyze it. The pseudo-RNG from a surviving computer would surely be good enough downtime.

    And yes, it does require training to use — it may be simple training, but it’s still some training. Since only two people will be using it, and the two people involved are already security conscious, it won’t be that hard to do, but given the atrocious password management practices a lot of people actually use in real life, the training cannot be ignored.

    Including the starting point in plain text makes it a bit too easy for the enemy, if the capture the pad. In real life, the magnitude of the difficulty wouldn’t be much, but without computers it might be a bit time consuming to try every starting point.

  23. Butch Clor says:

    In reference to the new royals crossing the Baltic, IFC they are crossing on the ironclad which was transfered to the Danish flag after the peace treaty. as such the royals are on board a Danish flag vessel.
    When combat breaks out the USE vessels may be constrained in their actions, the Danish fleet/ironclad does not have that constraint.
    If Kristina anounces she and her fiance have taken regency from her father then IMHO the danish warship will have free reign.

  24. Ken says:

    While I’m too old to be enough of a geek to talk about encryption; I am interested in who is going to be on the regency council. I’m thinking we’re going to see Eric blow a big hole in WW’s CR party by having Kristina and/or her advisors appoint Becky the head of the council. Having a Jew as the head of the regency just kills the whole idea of an established religion since even the Crow Royalists should be able to see the trouble it will create.

  25. Phillip Chesson says:

    A one-time pad is unbreakable because it has no pattern. The best way to defeat the use of a one-time pad is to steal it. The US armed forces did use one-time pads, but it was necessary to distribute many copies of them for use in various sites. They could be and sometimes were stolen, or in the case of the Walker family sold to the Russians.

  26. Erick says:

    Not Neutral. Simpson and Wood (also in a lesser sense Torstensson) are honor bound to follow the legal commands of the government and protect the constitution and are waiting for Ox to commit the illegal action that will allow them the legitimacy to come in on the good guys side. Simpson is the moral conscious of the ESA. What is good enough for the Admiral is good enough for the winning side. the political tension of the book seems to me to be: will the COC commit an illegal act (rebel against the government) first or can they be constrained to wait till Ox makes the mistake of ordering the illegal act (exceeding the powers of the government), better yet can the COC provoke Ox into committing the illegal action without stepping over the line first. What will that action be? If Ox orders Baner to attack Dresden in defiance of Ernist direct orders maybe that is enough for Simpson. But only if it is a direct and public action from Ox. Any other ideas what else could be Ox’s mistake?

  27. papertiger says:

    I agrued years ago for wheel machines and was shot down. Still it took the British years, a copy of the code book, tons of brillant minds, and hundreds of people to break enigma. Yes, an enigma simulator has been on the web. The web is gone. Enigma was a poor machine and poorly used with bad discipline. The allies also used machines which were never known to be broken and continued to use them at least through the mid 1950’s. Who, if anyone, came through the ROF who could write program a breaking program for any machine. Yes, I know some of our commentors claim they could. Fine they are not in Grantville and neither is anyone else likely to have the necessary skills. The many halves of Grantville didn’t make it. Even if the machines are breakable downtime, the process would not be quick enough for tactical advantage and one time pads are still available for high security use.

  28. Captain Button says:

    There was a short story in one of the Grantville Gazettes about a couple of downtime cryptographers who come to Grantville and offer their services to Nasi or the government or somebody. I think they were from England. In any case another motive for going to Grantville was that they were gay and on run.

    Too lazy to dig it out, sorry.

  29. Willem Meijer says:

    @10 Oops. It feels as if I’ve been doing them for much longer, but you’re right. Wide availability of sudoku books would make them quite usefull as simple keys. Who knows which sudoku you are using, and in wich direction you paste the numbers into a row? If they are in general circulation you could hide these in plain sight.

  30. ET1swaw says:

    @28 Captain Button: One was from England, the other was met in Grantville (Adam and Steve). His mentor was a part of Bacon’s Circle. They went to work for Colonel Hand in Grantville as a Black Chamber. Other cryptography sources are also canon.
    @21 and others: Bible is in many different translations and versions, not even ‘King James Version’ is a consistent standard.
    One time pad is much quicker and easier (and less unbreakable than ‘Book code’ (BTDT).
    Don’t forget the “neutrality” of the USE Air Force during ‘Krystallnacht’!!
    Admiral Simpson is trying to hold the armed services as apolitical (as they were by law in US even if sometimes it was indifferently followed).

  31. TimC says:

    Enigma and bad discipline.
    My 85 year old mother in law was one of the ‘Y service’ radio interceptors who took down the 5 letter code groups for decryption at Bletchley Park. She tells me that the RADIO discipline of the German operators was very strict, much better controlled than British operators.Nobody could transmit without permission from the net controller. She of course had no knowledge of the message content and it was the lack of MESSAGE discipline that provided the ‘cribs’ that were used to make an opening for the decryption. I think Eric could develop the story with a bit of radio interception soon, we have had Polish radio so what about evesdropping and direction finding next?

  32. Vince says:

    @31 Don’t forget, it was the Polish cryptanalysts who first broke the Enigma cipher system in OTL. They then gave it to the British cryptanalysts right before Poland was invaded and overrun during WWII.

  33. Blackmoore says:

    there is a good point, Mike knows that the Poles have radio, so you have to expect that they would now be looking for signals.

    Would he be able to get that information to Torstensson? he’s the only general engaging the Poles that Mike could count on. simply knowing the radio frequency wouldn’t be everything, as Eric has been good and vauge if the Polish radios are morse or voice communications, but it would be better than scanning the dial.

  34. Vince says:

    Long range radio communications in the 1632 universe tend to be Morse code instead of audio (voice). Morse requires much less power (watts), have a much higher signal to noise ratio, and are much less susceptible to interference.

  35. John Cowan says:

    Book codes/ciphers are not one-time pads for the reasons given, but they are decently strong by down-time standards, provided you are careful not to use the same pages of the book all the time.

    For that matter, a simple Vigenere with a decently long key (essentially a one-time pad that isn’t one-time), or the word-transposition codes used in the U.S. Civil War, will very likely defeat most down-time cryptanalysts. The ADFGVX cipher is optimized for Morse, combines substitution and transposition, is meant for hand encipherment (it was used in WWI) and is completely beyond the cryptanalytic state of the art in the 1630s. All these are documented in Kahn 1976 (for the up-timers) and in Wikipedia (for us).

  36. papertiger says:

    To TimC reguarding enigma discipline

    By bad dicipline I mean that operators frequently included the next day’s settings at the end of the previous day’s messages. Also test messages were often common brief German sayings. This meant to break one day could give you a free run for a long time. Also the repeated test phrases gave a small group for solution testing.

    I appreciate your Mum-in-law’s service. It was vital and could not at the time be openly applauded. I hope she is recognized properly at least in the present.

  37. Bret Hooper says:

    @24 Ken: You wrote: “I’m too old to be enough of a geek to talk about encryption. . . .” You must be very, very old; my father’s job when he was in the army during WWII was encryption/decryption/code breaking, and were he alive today he would be 103.
    I think appointing Becky to head the regency council is an excellent idea. Reminds me of John More’s delightful THE UNHANDSOME PRINCE, in which it is proposed that a Jew be knighted, and Prince Hal’s musing about it is priceless!

  38. Stanley Leghorn says:

    27: The Poles aside, the problem with the German messages was they always used the same sign off “Heil Hitler” which gave anyone 6 letters of the code. With those 6 letters, you could piece together a lot of the messages.

    Still waiting for the royal couple to reappear in the snippets.

  39. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Stanley, they show up in the Monday snippet.

    Oh by the way, the word is that the EARC of this book will show up “soon”.

    Not sure when “soon” is but IMO should be before the 20th.

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