1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 11

1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 11

Chapter 10

Bernie sat in the sleigh and moped. He should be interested and excited, but he couldn’t manage to feel even an echo of such an emotion. It had just hit him again: the Ring of Fire, the people he’d killed at the Battle of the Crapper and his mother’s death. He could quit and go home but it wasn’t home. Home didn’t exist anymore. Bernie wanted a drink. He knew he shouldn’t have one but he wanted one.

He had been drinking a lot less since they started for Russia. Getting out of Grantville had helped, but sometimes it all came back on him. For some unknown reason, today was one of those times. Mid-winter this far north had short frigging days. Maybe that had something to do with it. He’d read something about that somewhere.

Natasha looked over at him and grinned. “We will reach the dacha soon, Bernie.”

Bernie grunted without much enthusiasm. God, I wish I had my car. I wish I had some gas. I wish . . .

“What is wrong, Bernie?”

“Nothing you can help with, nothing anyone can help with really. I guess I’m just homesick.”

“You wish you could go back? But we have only begun to become acquainted.”

Bernie noted with some amusement that Natasha’s vamp routine needed a bit of work. Still it was nice that she was trying to cheer him up. “No, I don’t wish to go back. Not back to Germany anyway. I wish I could go home, back to the world I came from. This world isn’t home. Even Grantville isn’t home. I used to do all right, you know. I had enough money to do what I wanted, for the most part. I dated, I worked my hours. I had a life.” I hadn’t killed anyone; I had a mother who was still alive. “Now, though, well, it’s just not the same, not even in Grantville.”

Bernie looked at the girl. She seemed nice enough and she hadn’t gotten pissed at the Boris and Natasha bit. On the other hand, she was Vladimir’s sister and Bernie had finally figured out just how rich and powerful Vladimir was after he had gotten to Moscow. This girl was the daughter of a great house. She was pretty, dark-haired and slim. Slimmer than a lot of the Russian women, with black hair that hung down to her waist. She spoke some English. Funny-sounding English, but English. Mostly, though, she was someone to talk to and Bernie was sick of thinking about his troubles.

“So,” he said, “tell me about yourself.” Natasha looked taken aback by the question and the old lady, Vladimir’s Aunt Sofia, cackled a bit. Bernie didn’t have a clue why.

“Ah . . .” Natasha stopped. “What do you wish to know?”

“Oh . . .” Bernie hesitated a moment. “What do you figure on doing with your life? Do you have any plans to become a doctor or lawyer? What’s it like in the summer here? Is there summer here? Do you like parties?” He snorted. “What’s your sign? That’s probably too many questions, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps,” Natasha acknowledged. “In any case, I didn’t understand what all of them meant. I don’t know what my sign is. Unless you mean the family crest.”

“Never mind,” Bernie scratched his chin. “Why do all the men wear beards?”

“Men wear beards because the church says that it is a mortal sin to shave them. God did not create men beardless, only cats and dogs.”

“Not to mention rats and mice,” Bernie said. “Goats, though. Goats have beards.”

Aunt Sofia was suppressing laughter. Bernie grinned at the old lady. “Of course, goats don’t shave either.”

“Perhaps so.” Natasha sounded like she was trying not to laugh. “But I’m not sure the church would like hearing that . . .” She searched for the word. “Ah . . . compare?”

“Comparison,” Bernie said. “Yeah. I’ve never met a holy roller yet that liked that sort of comparison. I understand the churches down-time have a lot more power. So maybe I should be more careful about what I say.”

“What of your faith, Bernie?”

“Mom was a Methodist, a Protestant I guess you’d call it, and Dad a Catholic, though neither one of them were big church goers. Me, I guess I was an agnostic before the Ring of Fire.”

“Agnostic?”

“Someone who doesn’t know,” Bernie said. “Maybe there’s a God or maybe not. If there is a god maybe it cares about people and maybe not. After the Ring of Fire . . . well, something had to do that. Which still leaves me wondering about what it wants, whatever it is.”

That statement seemed to set both Natasha and Sofia back on their heels. Which wasn’t an unusual reaction. Bernie had had his face shoved in the fact that most people down-time were members of a church whether they wanted to be or not. There was no Madelyn Nutcase O’Hare down-time screaming about atheist rights. And considering what the holy rollers got up to without such people, maybe O’Hare wasn’t that much of a nut case after all. “Like I say, someone or something took a six-mile diameter chunk of rock, earth, water, and air, animals, people, machines and books and shifted all of us 369 years into the past and halfway around the world in a flash of light. I know that there’s someone or something that can do that and if it ain’t a god, it’s close enough for me. On the other hand, whatever it is didn’t appear to have much concern for what it was doing to my mom by taking her into the past and leaving the medicines that were keeping her alive in the future. So, yes, I’m convinced there’s a god. That God is good and caring, not so much.” Bernie ran down and realized he had probably said way too much. I’m not here to fix their culture or update their religion, he reminded himself. It was time for a change of subject. “So what do you do?”

“Do?” Natasha asked. “Ah . . . I take care of the family properties while Vladimir is away. Someone must.”

As the sleigh carried Bernie, Natasha and Aunt Sofia to the dacha they talked about the roles of women in the future America where Bernie came from and the role of women in Russia. Natasha was clearly shocked at the options open to women in that future. Sofia was more curious and cautious.

****

Natasha found herself both shocked and intrigued by the up-timer’s lack of concern for her rank and station. It wasn’t so much that he ignored her rank. Instead, he treated it like some local fantasy that he paid polite lip-service to. In a very real sense, it seemed to Natasha that Bernie did not see himself as outranked by any man. Perhaps not even by God. And that was a truly frightening, and oddly exciting, thought.

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Comments

13 Responses to 1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 11

  1. ET1swaw says:

    Three in one – A Calvinist, a ROMAN Catholic, and an unbeliever; the Russian Orthodox church is going to have a cow. I mean: Filaret’s death and Nikon’s rearrangement are just around the OTL corner. NTL both are still alive ATT.
    Culture shock and Natalia is intrigued (and her duenna?sp? aunt sounds like a keeper).

  2. Cobbler says:

    Bernie is following the old adage;

    Always treat a barmaid like a Duchess.

    Always treat a Duchess like a Cartoon.

  3. dave o says:

    If Bernie is willing to tell his religious opinions, just how long will he remain alive. The inquisition is a Roman institution, but the Orthodox have their own methods. My guess, less than a year.

  4. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @4 – dave o

    I doubt that the powers that be in Russia will kill “the goose that laid the golden egg”, though they might. Instead, it seems to me more likely that Bernie will learn the value of keeping his religious opinions to himself.

  5. Vikingted says:

    I can see from Bernie’s standpoint that an agnostic view point is valid, perhaps deadly, but valid none the less.

  6. Vikingted says:

    Drak, Is this string of snippets going to last until almost June? According to the forthcoming books it is due out in(or by) June:

    “1636: The Kremlin Games, with Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett. June 2012. This is the next novel in the 1632 series.)

  7. Vikingted says:

    If the snippets last til June, I am in for a long tease before the hardcover version hits the bookstores…

  8. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Vikingted, the Snippets will end June 6th.

    Also, the Hardcover should start being available in the US bookstores around the last week in May.

    Now, if you live outside the US, you might consider visiting the Baen eBook store at http://www.baenebooks.com/default.aspx

    This book as an ebook will be available for $6.00 no later than May 20th.

  9. Bret Hooper says:

    @8 Drak: I am sure “Nutcase” instead of “Murray” was intentional, but what about “O’Hare” instead of “O’Hair”? Please check with EF; I am sure there will be at least enough spelling errors (zero being exactly enough) in the final print run, without letting any known errors get by. Thank you.

  10. Bret Hooper says:

    @8 Drak: Oops, I just let one get by; It is Madalyn (not Madelyn) Murray O’Hair.

  11. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Well Bret, if you asked Bernie to spell her name, he’d likely get it wrong. [Wink]

    Bernie (and a lot of people) would think “O’Hare” instead of “O’Hair”.

    In any case, this isn’t the final version so Eric may have already corrected the “Nutcase’s” name.

  12. Bret Hooper says:

    @11 Drak: Thanks, Drak; You are perfectly correct. Probably not just ‘a lot of people’ but the majority of people would probably get her name wrong, but it seems that many of us who haven’t the talent to be authors expect to hold those who do to the impossible standard of total perfection. EF is such a wonderful writer that I would hate to see him picked apart on such really trivial points, which is why I will do my best to let him know before publication of any potential problems I become aware of.

  13. Alice Collins says:

    @12: Stay on the job, Bret. I’ve read a lot of books lately that desperately needed a good proofreader. The one I just finished had “we’re” for “were”. Another added an apostrophe to every plural. It’s (we won’t go into how often “it’s” and “its” are confused) very distracting. No, I’m not an English teacher–I just had a very good one.

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