1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 07
Filaret leaned back in his chair. This was the reason he’d called for Boris Petrov to see him. He wanted to hear, first hand. “Yet they don’t fly now. None of the machines, the airplanes, was it? None came with them.”
Boris nodded. “True. It was a poor village of peasants that was sent back to us. Yet even there they have miracles in every art and philosophy and in things we had not even dreamed of. Undreamed of wealth, Patriarch. The products of mass production, they call it. Everything identical, made by machines. If we can make the machines, we should be able to do the same.”
Filaret raised an eyebrow. “Yet you say you’re not sure?”
Boris sighed. “You know the problems with hiring outlander experts. If they were really experts they would be getting rich where they were. What we get are the less adept or the ones no one is willing to hire for some reason. We have seen that, time after time.”
“Your outlander is a mal-adept?”
“You must remember that there were only around three thousand people brought back in the Ring of Fire. That includes babes still at their mothers’ breast and those so . . . sick that they could not survive without constant intervention from their medical practitioners.”
Boris had, Filaret was sure, almost said “so old” but caught himself in time. Filaret hid a smile. He was over eighty and Boris was afraid to offend.
“By their standards,” Boris continued, “it was not a particularly educated group. Most adults had high school diplomas . . . never mind. The point is that anyone who had much in the way of special skills or unusual talent was already employed by their government, getting rich right there in Grantville, or both.
“Bernie is friendly, willing, and doesn’t lie about his abilities. That, above all else, Vladimir insisted on and I agreed. We have had too many master cannon makers who were more familiar with gold than bronze.”
Boris paused and Filaret considered. Boris was good at his job and Vladimir was clever. He didn’t think that Vladimir was planning anything against the czar, partly because Vladimir was a good lad and a friend of the family, but mostly because he was staying in Grantville. Manipulating court politics from such a distance was almost impossible. Not entirely impossible; Filaret had done it from imprisonment in Poland. But that was a special case and hadn’t worked out the way he had wanted. At the same time, Filaret realized that Vladimir was beginning to play politics, albeit at a remove. This project was to be the Gorchakovs’ entrance into the ranks of the high families and Filaret thought he could use that. There was a great deal of tension in the boyar duma, in part because of the Ring of Fire and the general uncertainty of what it might mean, but also because the word from Grantville had weakened the war faction and given hope to the Polish-lovers like his own cousin, Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev.
By this time Filaret had almost decided to approve the project, but he had a few more questions.
“Then –” Filaret leaned forward with his fingertips steepled. “– if he is so unskilled, what is he doing here? And why did Vladimir hire him into the Gorchakov family’s service instead of the czar’s? Why agree to pay him so much?” He motioned toward the contract. “This is what we would pay for a colonel of artillery.”
“His salary is the least of the expense of this project,” Boris admitted. This was one of the most important parts of the plan. “Vladimir had an idea. He will be having copies made of the books in Grantville. They will be sent here. But they are only copies, Patriarch, not translations. Not even Latin translations, much less Russian. He doesn’t have the staff, or the cash on hand, to pay to have it done and the time it would take would put us years behind. The books will have to be translated here or our experts must learn up-timer English.”
“I still don’t understand what we need this outlander for. Not that I object to his presence. The czar has been anxious to meet an outlander from this miracle and I am curious myself. That, however, doesn’t justify this salary or this change in our traditional ways.” The patriarch waved a hand at the contract again. “Contracts like this . . . well, I suppose I can understand the idea. But it’s not the way we have done things and I don’t like the precedent it sets.”
“I speak the English of England in this century quite well,” Boris said. “The American English of the end of the twentieth century is full of words that I don’t even have the concepts for. What is an electromagnetic field?” Boris used Russian for field and English for electromagnetic.
At Filaret’s look, he answered his own question, sort of. “Had someone asked me that before I went to Grantville, I would have had no idea what they were talking about. Even if I had looked up electromagnetic in a dictionary from Grantville, I would still have thought it a nonsense phrase. The dictionary would tell me that electromagnetic is the adjective form of the word electromagnetism which is magnetism caused by an electrical current, which is useful to know. But the real trouble comes with field, because the field they are talking about has nothing to do with plowing or reaping nor with grain or grass or battles or the flags and ensigns carried into battle. It’s the area where the electromagnetism is, which I didn’t find out because though I didn’t know the meaning of electromagnetism, I did know the meaning of field.
“When I asked Bernie what an electromagnetic field was. He told me ‘it’s what makes electric motors work and I’d have to look it up if you want to know more.’ I explained that I had looked up electromagnetic and it had not helped much. We discussed it for a while till it came about that Bernie’s definition of field contained several more meanings than mine did. Between us we worked out roughly how an electric motor works and how the changing of the electromagnetic field is crucial to its working. I understand it a little, but it feels profoundly unnatural to me, like the incantations of magic might feel.”
“Could it be magic?” Filaret asked.
“No, Patriarch.” Boris shook his head, trying to put into that gesture all the certainty that he had gained in his time in Grantville. “It feels like magic because it is so different from the way we are used to thinking. There are no demons running their machines and if an electromagnetic field is an unseen force, it carries no motive, no will. It is an effect like water turning a waterwheel. Not magic, just craftsmanship and great knowledge.”