1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 02

1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 02

 

Chapter 2

 

          “I would like some information.” Boris said to the woman behind the desk.

 

          “Your name is?”

 

          “Boris Ivanovich Petrov, of Muscovy.”

 

          “Ah.” The woman smiled. “Russian, then. I wondered about your accent. All I could really tell was eastern European. I’m Cecelia Calafano.”

 

          “Da, Russia. That is what we have called the motherland for some time now. It is the rest of Europe that still calls us Muscovy. That has changed in the future?”

 

          “Yes, it has,” the woman Cecelia confirmed. “How can I help you?”

 

          Boris smiled at her. “We’ve been sent to determine if this place is real.”

 

          Cecelia laughed. “I’ve lived here all my life. Trust me, it’s real. What did you want to know?”

 

          The man behind Boris was clearing his throat, as though Boris were taking too much time. Boris was much too much of a professional to turn and pound the oaf into the floor. Not too much to want to, though.

 

          It was a moot point. Cecelia gave the oaf a look that melted him on the spot. Apparently, librarian was a post of some importance here. Boris gave her a list he had written in consultation with young Vladimir. Cecelia took a quick look. It was in English, carefully written. She sighed and Boris wondered why. Consistent spelling was some time in the future; it wasn’t something that Boris had ever known so wasn’t something he missed. It was, to Boris’ eye, a perfectly legible list.

 

          She began to read aloud carefully. “How to make telephones. A history of the Romanov family. How to make cars. A history of Muscovy, or Russia. I think you’re probably in the wrong place.”

 

          Boris looked at the woman. Here it came the runaround. Yes, we give such knowledge away, but not here was what he was expecting to hear.

 

          What heard instead was, “Never mind,” followed by another sigh. The meaning of this one was clear. She had seen his response before. “Some of this you will be able to find here. Like the history of Russia or part of it. I’ll get you some books.”

 

****

 

          Boris examined the books. Russia Under the Old Regime by someone called Pipes. He looked at the table of contents. Chapter 4: The Anatomy of the Patrimonial Regime. Boris tried to translate the words to Russian. The body parts of the fatherhood rulers? That sounded positively obscene. Boris worked it out. Anatomy meant the structure of a body . . . perhaps it was used here to represent the structure of the government. Patrimonial regime . . . might mean inherited rule or it might mean government by the church. Was Russia going to be ruled by the priesthood? Considering the relative political strengths of the patriarch and the czar, it could happen. This would be monstrously time-consuming. He looked at the other book. Perhaps it would be clearer. What was the USSR? What was the revolution of 1917? For that matter, what was St. Petersburg? At least, that’s what he thought it said. There was no St. Petersburg in his Russia.

 

          He read through the books as well as he could for several hours, making notes. Some things were clear enough. The year of birth and death of the czar and his son and his grandson. Others weren’t. The analysis was just weird. It was all there, Boris thought, but looked at as though through a prism. The light split into the spectra and the image was lost. Was this Pipes an idiot? Upon considering the matter, Boris didn’t think so. So might a citizen of Caesar’s Rome respond to a history of Rome written by a modern scholar who had never seen the Coliseum or been present at a triumph.

 

          The woman stopped by a time or two. Handed him what she called a magazine. “Here,” she’d said. “You might find something in this.”

 

          It was an old, fragile thing, this magazine. And what did perestroika mean? Boris knew what “restructuring” meant, but the word seemed to be used a bit differently here.

 

          Much befuddled, Boris gave up for now. It was getting late and he needed to get back to the room they had rented. He wasn’t going to figure it all out in a day.

 

          It was as he was putting things away that the librarian came and sat down at the table. “Can I give you some advice?”

 

          Boris nodded cautiously.

 

          “If what you wanted was a nice place to come and read an occasional book, this would be the place for you and I encourage you to do that. However, this isn’t the place for what you’re after. The Grantville Public Library was never intended to be a center of research. It was designed to be a small-town library at the tail end of the twentieth century. We had inter-library loans and the Internet. Before the Ring of Fire, if we didn’t have the book someone wanted, we could get it in a few weeks through inter-library loans. What we had on the shelves were the books most likely to be wanted in a small town. A small town that didn’t need to make telephones or automobiles. We could buy them. We have books on how to fix an automobile. Those books usually tell the reader how to install a new part that they are expected to buy from an automobile parts supply store that got its parts from a manufacturer in another state. What I mean is, they tell you how to fix a car, not how to make one from scratch.”

 

          Boris nodded politely, but he was wondering if this was perhaps how they were hiding the important information. That concern decreased as she continued.

 

          “Shortly after the Ring of Fire, it was decided to use the library at the high school as our national library, our Library of Alexandria.” The woman gave him a questioning look and he nodded his understanding.

 

          She continued. “In it, we have at least one copy of almost all the books that came through the Ring of Fire. In those books there is enough information to tell you how to make an automobile, at least most of it. Even there, it’s not all in one book. It’s scattered around in books designed to teach children the basics of how things work, in biographies of the people involved in the inventing of the automobile and its mass production and so on.” The woman took a deep breath. “That makes it a treasure hunt. It’s hard even for a professional to know which book to look in to find the thing you’re after. Trying to do it on your own . . .” She shrugged. “I recommend you hire a professional researcher. If you don’t have the money for that, you can put in information requests and the library researchers will get around to it as they have time. Your other option is to take the library science basic course at the high school and pay the usage fees.”

 

          Boris considered. The little talk she had given him was well-rehearsed. “How often do you give that little speech?”

 

          She smiled. “About twice a week.”

 

          “About the usage fees you mentioned . . . you don’t have them here. Why not?”

 

          “We’re funded by the national library. We have been since a few months after the Ring of Fire. There was a minor fight in the emergency committee about that, but public libraries being free for public use is a long standing tradition up-time. There was a bigger fight about having fees to use the national library.” She laughed. “By the time that fight got going there were already millions of dollars worth of products coming out of the library. People were wondering why the cash-strapped government should pay to make a bunch of people rich. A compromise was worked out. You can get anything you want out of the national library and research center free, if you’re willing to wait your turn. And it can be a long wait. You can also pay to get it faster. Quite a lot of people pay either by paying a professional licensed researcher or by taking the course and paying the usage fees.”

 

          Boris had a lot to think about as he walked back to the room they had rented.

 

****

 

          “So, Boris how did it go?” Vladimir asked as Boris looked for a place to sit. The difficulty had to do with the size of the room. Population growth had far outstripped new construction. Even their small room was expensive.

 

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Comments

18 Responses to 1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 02

  1. VernonNemitz says:

    “How did it go?”
    In the fascinating parlance of uptime slogans, soon to conquer Europe:
    TMI
    :)

  2. ET1swaw says:

    I wonder what he’s going to think when he discovers Saint Petersburg / Leningrad is built over the razed ruins of a Swedish fort (Nyenskans) on the territories (Swedish Ingria and Swedish Karelia) that Grantville’s newest bestest friend G2A took from Russia less than 15 years ago? (In fact the western portion (west of Lava River/Naziya) of Leningrad Oblast —IS— Swedish Ingria!!)

    @1 TMI indeed! The western view of Imperialist Russia (pre- and post- Nikon) as myopic as it was. The American view of Communist Russia (behind the Iron Curtain) slanted as it may be. And the fall of the wall and ‘perestroika’ with all their attendant confusions. Even the Ottomans were more a part of Europe than Muscovy seemed to be.

    Wait until they get a load of USSR/Warsaw Pact territorial claims!!!

  3. Stan Leghorn says:

    Trying to get all that land in the west when the wealth of Siberia is just waiting to be taken? The hints we have gotten in the GG and Ring of Fire series hits at that as the plan while Europe and the Ottomans mangle each other.

  4. Jeff Ehlers says:

    This almost has to have happened before the Conker “library”, or whatever his name was, was found out. Of course, Mike’s shown himself to be farsighted enough to not try to block stuff that presupposes the things necessary to build the modern world to begin with.

  5. Doug Lampert says:

    @4, I’d thought the decision was that that material simply did not exist in Grantville despite it’s presence in Manington.

  6. robert says:

    @2 ET1swaw:
    None of which will likely happen in this new 1632 universe. Once Grantville landed all their history books became obsolete. What? GA hasn’t read all that already? He knows it will all so not happen.

  7. Krishna123 says:

    Hmmmm this seems to be a word for word rehash of the original story from the gazette?? Hope it diverges soon or this will be the first ring of fire product I have not purchased!!!!!!!!!

  8. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Krishna, it will diverge but since I haven’t read all of the gazettes I’m not sure when.

  9. haree says:

    I wonder if some enterprising Mongolians or others would conquer Siberia and keep it out of Russia…

  10. dave o says:

    How to make cars:Very partial list. Find iron ores. Find coal. Find oil wells. Buy rubber if and when anyone is willing to sell it. Build blast furnaces. Build bessemer converters (or equivalent) Train foundrymen. Train patternmakers. Design and build measuring equipment ( consistent rules, gauges, calipers, etc. etc.) Design and build machine tools. Train operators. Design engines, steering mechanism, transmission. Apologies for everything I left out.

    Gorg and Hufflet appear to believe that all this can be done in a few years. I don’t. I think 20 or 30 years is about as soon as all this can be done. Russia is starting from a technological base with some skilled woodworkers and village blacksmiths. They may be able to hire really skilled metalworkers from abroad, but not many: there will be too much competition and not enough skilled workers. Training people to do the kind of work necessary takes time. A lot of time.

  11. hank says:

    Time to build cars depends on how fancy(modern) you want them. If you want to mass produce Model T’s, yeah 20 years sounds right. If, OTOH, you’re willing to settle for a simple steam-powered wagon, maybe two years. It would for sure be Unsafe At Any Speed though.
    hank

  12. Richard says:

    @10, 11:

    The real problem is engines. Even the Model T was mostly wood, and I’m sure someone could live with non-inflated tires. Engines, though, are either going to be custom-made (i.e. expensive) if they aren’t going to spend years upon years tooling up. I think the steam-powered wagon is about right. They might even be able to get designs for *that* out of a library. On the other hand, I expect steam engines require sheet metal of some quality for the boiler, (and I expect that the brass->iron->steel jump will be even quicker here than it was historically, since we know the answers already) so a competent steam engine probably isn’t faster than a competent Diesel engine… but it takes more flexible fuel.

  13. dave o says:

    #12 Richard: Knowing the answer helps some, But not all that much. There’s a long gap between knowing how to make steel and having the infrastructure to actually make it. Oh, and by the way, no-one has mentioned brakes yet. Ot the hydraulic lines to run them. I agree that steam is the easiest, but then there’s the problem of replacing the water. Or maybe making radiators with enough plumbing to recirculate most of it. If Holland is the most advanced country, where does that leave Russia?

    An afterthought. Even a steam engine will probably need liquid fuel. Unless the cars come with a driver and fireman.
    Would vodka do? If so, then locking gas caps are a must.

  14. Mark L says:

    @13 “Would vodka do? If so, then locking gas caps are a must.”

    Or denaturing agents.

  15. rlrapp says:

    as for brakes, the early versions weren’t hyrdaulic but mechanical, and typically rear wheels only.

  16. Cobbler says:

    @ 13, Mark. Two points:

    A: Compare a camp stove that burns white gas with a stove that burns alcohol. You’ll get less firepower from the booze. The vodkamobile’s boiler would need bigger burners or something.

    B: The colder the ambient temperature, the less heat the alcohol stove gives off. This may not matter in Ethiopia. In Moscow…..it might be a problem.

  17. Bret Hooper says:

    @13 Dave: My first VW, a 1953 25hp, had 4-wheel cable-operated brakes, and they worked very well. The parking brake handle applied all four brakes, too, which I like better than ‘modern’ parking brakes which apply only to the rear wheels.

  18. Richard H says:

    (This is Richard, from above)

    @13
    I have to admit I was figuring that they could burn wood if they had to. If you really needed it liquid, (although it might produce a hotter flame, too…) you could always use methanol from wood, which wouldn’t use up valuable food supplies and would be massively hazardous to your health. Also, a quick Google search reveals that Russia has a huge coal industry, these days. Then again, they might also be able to develop the Caucasus oil fields, too, which could provide them with petroleum fuels, if they brought in enough foreign expertise.

    As for brakes, you also need to remember that even the early Fords went at breakneck speeds of 30 miles per hour. A horse can keep up, at least for a bit. Rolling friction will probably be pretty high in anything the Russians manage to put together, anyway, and Bret Hooper (17) has a good example of how mechanical brakes would be sufficient. Remember, power steering and power braking are actually relatively recent inventions. (The reason we moved away from drum brakes is that they perform badly if water gets in, which it will when it rains, not because they weren’t effective.)

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