1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 72
“Let’s face it,” said Minnie Hugelmair. “What we ought to do is turn this hangar” — she gestured at the structure that had been erected in the square to shelter the plane while the repair work on it was done — “into the world’s first aviation museum. Because that’s all this fancy airplane is anymore, a museum exhibit.”
Eddie was pretty sure she was right. At least, until the civil war was over.
It didn’t occur to him that the term “civil war” was a misnomer. Everywhere else in the USE, people might be starting to make wisecracks about the “phony civil war.” But not in Saxony. By now, Banér’s army had savaged much of the province except in the vicinity of Leipzig where von Arnim’s forces ruled the roost. Swedish cavalry patrols never ventured into the countryside any longer except in large numbers. Georg Kresse and his Vogtlanders had organized a large irregular army that operated on the Saxon plain as well as in the mountains. After the atrocities they’d committed, God help any Swedish mercenary who fell into their hands.
Prague, capital of Bohemia
“What an utterly charming idea,” said Francisco Nasi. He spoke softly, barely more than a murmur, because he was talking to himself. There was no one else in his office at the moment.
He left the radio message he’d just gotten on the table and went to a window.
He’d established his headquarters in the Josefov, as Prague’s Jewish district was coming to be known. That was perhaps the single most ridiculous side effect of the Ring of Fire that Francisco had yet encountered. In the history of Prague in the world the Americans had come from, the Jewish district had gotten that name in the course of the nineteenth century. The name was in honor of the Austrian emperor Joseph II, who’d emancipated the empire’s Jews in the Toleration Edict of 1781. Somehow or other — probably through Judith Roth — that anecdote of a world that didn’t exist and if it did was hundred and fifty years in the future had spread through the Jewish district. And now, more and more people were calling the district by that name.
The situation would simply be amusing, except that Francisco — and Morris Roth, he knew — were worried that Wallenstein might find out about it. The man sometimes had a volatile ego, and he might take offense that the Jews weren’t naming the district after him. It was Wallenstein, after all, not some phantasmagorical Emperor Joseph, who had emancipated Bohemia’s Jews in this universe.
Nasi had situated his headquarters in the Jewish district for several reasons. Those ranged from simple prudence — Wallenstein’s edicts notwithstanding, no sensible Jew was yet prepared to assume that pogroms were entirely a thing of the past — to his decision that he needed to find a wife, a project that wouldn’t be helped in the least if he distanced himself from the community in which he hoped to find the blessed woman. That said, he was very wealthy, so he’d obtained a building close to the river that gave him a good view of the Hradcany and the hills behind the Mala Strana. He found looking out over that very pleasant scenery helped concentrate his thoughts.
He wondered, for a moment, by what circuitous route that message had come to him. Through Rebecca Abrabanel, of course — the message itself had come directly from her. But how and from whom had she gotten it?
Given the content of the message itself, it had to have come from Luebeck. He couldn’t think of any other plausible explanation.
He’d read the message enough times to have it memorized by now, and went over it again in his mind.
May soon need aircraft available for important passengers within two weeks. Military aircraft not suitable. No other civilian aircraft available in time. What are possibilities at your disposal?
He couldn’t keep from grinning. “What an utterly charming idea!”
It would cost him a small fortune, though. Not even Richter would agree to demolishing entire city streets without recompensing those dislocated. There wouldn’t be any immediate return, either, most likely. It would just have to be written off as a loss.
On the other hand…
Ultimately, when all was said and done, he was in the business of exchanging and facilitating favors. The actual collection of information — espionage, as such — was simply the first step in the process. Most spies and spymasters never went beyond that step, of course. That was not the least of the reasons that most spies died young and poor and most spymasters lived in garrets. The real profit was all in what you did with the information.
He was sure he knew what lay behind that message. So, what was it worth to have a very large favor owed to him by two people who might someday be the two most powerful people in the world? The two most influential people, at any rate, power being an increasingly elastic phenomenon.
Quite a lot, he decided. Easily worth a small fortune.
He went back to the desk and rang the little bell that sat there. A moment later, his secretary appeared.
Nasi was already writing the message. “I need to have this sent immediately by radio. Well, by nightfall, at any rate. It’s going to Dresden so we may need to wait for the evening window.”
He had his own radio in his headquarters. Quite a good one, too. But radio transmission and reception was what it was, and Dresden was on the other side of the Erzgebirge.
As it turned out, conditions were suitable for immediate transmission. So, to his surprise, Jozef Wojtowicz found himself summoned back to the Residenzschloss by late afternoon, no more than a few hours after he’d left it.
When he got back to Richter’s headquarters, he found her there in the company of a stocky young German. He recognized the man immediately, although they’d never actually met. He was Eddie Junker, the pilot.
“New plans,” said Richter. “Let me show you.”
Again, he came to stand next to her. This time, though, she had a map of the city proper in front of her. Her finger was placed on the big square and then traced a route down the large street leading south.
“We need this entire street widened. For at least fifty yards, maybe a hundred. Remove enough of the buildings to make the street” — she cocked an inquisitive gaze on Junker.
“I want at least sixty feet. That’d give me twice the wingspan of the plane. Anything less gets too risky.”
She nodded. “That means widening it about thirty feet. If we’re lucky, we can do that by just removing the first row of buildings on one side of the street. But if we need to, we’ll level them on both sides.”
Removing the first row of buildings —
Level them on both sides, maybe —
“I’m assigning you and all your Poles to the project,” Richter went on. “I’ll give you as many more people as I can free up. This project takes priority over everything else except defending the walls against a direct assault.”
Back to hauling rocks. Did God have a grudge against Poles in general? Jozef wondered. Or was the Almighty specifically enraged at him for some reason?