1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 22
Boris got back to Russia while the fight against the typhoid fever outbreak was still going on but after Bernie had gone back to the Dacha. The Grantville Section was, so far, not doing all that well. Boris was having organizational problems. Pavel Borisovich, his eldest son, shook his head at him. “They won’t authorize his transfer, Father.”
“Why not?” Boris felt he was asking the question with considerable restraint.
His son shrugged. “The official reason or the real reason?”
“The official one; I know the real one.” The real reason was resentment. The patriarch had gotten Boris the Grantville Section and a reasonable budget. That only fueled the resentment. There were other people who were in line for the promotion; people with better family connections. That would normally mean that if a new section was established, those people might reasonably expect to be selected to head it up. Assistant section chiefs — in and out of the embassy bureau — were angry that Boris had been jumped a rank.
“Priorities.” Pavel squinted and hunched over as though he expected a strong wind.
“I was given to understand that we had a rather high priority?” Boris tried to keep his voice calm. Perhaps too calm.
“I’m just passing on what I was told.” Pavel waved the report, then began to read. “‘Because of the requirements of the grain shipments to Sweden, Yuri Petrovich Gorbochov is desperately needed to expedite the harvest in the Gdansk region.'”
“They picked one that has a higher priority than we do.” Boris had to give that section chief credit. It was cleverly done anyway. There might even be some truth to it.
“Father, I’m not sure you do know the real reason. At least not all of them. I was talking to Petr Somovich. He said that a lot of people are starting to be afraid that this is a job that leads nowhere. Bernie is popular enough, though some of the healers are pretty upset with him. Not that much has come out of the Dacha yet. The scrapers, if they turn out to be useful, and a few other things. We have some books that mostly don’t make sense, not even to people who do speak English. Who cares that someone named Audubon painted birds? Russia has real issues to deal with.”
“I know, son.” Boris had to concede that some of the objections to working with the Dacha crew seemed to be valid. Among the other things that Boris had brought back was a down-time copy of the first book of the Encyclopedia International, 1963 edition, that had been in someone’s garage. They had refused the outright sale of the books but had rented them to Vladimir and his friends for an outrageous sum. “But you never know what might combine with something else to solve a problem. We saw it again and again in Grantville. There would be an article on something that they needed but it would be missing some vital piece of information. Then that needed piece of information would show up in the biography about the man who discovered it. Something like where he was when he found the first deposit of some rare earth.”
“So you decided to send a copy of everything. I know, Father. I even agree.” Pavel’s face was serious, his dark eyes intent. “That doesn’t change the fact that spending the next ten years of their lives translating minutia about people who will never even be born seems a pointless, career-ending job to most people.”
Boris sighed. “I had hoped it would be more popular. It is a secure position, doing important work, if not the most exciting. A safe place in the bureaus.”
“That’s the problem, Father.” Pavel shrugged. “It’s not secure unless the Grantville Section becomes secure.”
Boris was left with an office and a budget and not nearly enough people who read and wrote English and Russian. The budget . . . for the moment he had plenty of money. Well, lands. The government of Russia ran on a formalized barter system because there was not nearly enough money to support the economy they had. That would be changing soon. The Assembly of the Land and the Boyar Duma were almost agreed on the form the Czar’s Bank would take.
The delay in the formation of the Czar’s Bank wasn’t caused just by the haggling over who got what. There was plenty of that, to be sure, but the politicians were also waiting for more excerpts from up-time economics books. They all wanted the money to work, even the fair number of boyars and other officials who didn’t believe that paper money would ever be worth anything.
Two days after Boris got back he had a visit from Princess Natalia. She came to his home, had tea with his wife, and talked to him about getting Andrei Korisov out of her Dacha.
“I don’t care that much that he is no doubt spying for Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev or one of that clan. Anyway, they have other spies, I don’t doubt. It’s what he’s doing with the servants of the Dacha. They are terrified to go near his little shop for fear of being drafted to pull a trigger on the latest of his experiments.”
“Is he getting results?”
Natasha sighed. “Yes, I think so, and so does Bernie. Not that Bernie is any more pleased about his methods than I am. Bernie and Filip worked up a string and pulley system for pulling the trigger and a paper cage to measure the out-gassing.
“Andrei Korisov thanked them for the paper cage because it gives a more accurate read on the direction of force than a screaming, running peasant does. He just grunted about the string and pulley system for bench-firing the rifle. Apparently, saving peasants from maiming or death is not an issue of concern. Bernie, just back from Moscow and the slow plague, wanted to kill him and I wanted to let him. Even Filip was upset, and you know how conservative he is.”
Which Boris actually didn’t, but he nodded anyway. It was what you did when a princess told you that you knew something you hadn’t known. “So, Princess, clearly you have something in mind?” he asked when she had run down a little.
“Yes. I want to give him to the army or to the Grantville desk. Anywhere. I don’t really care. I just want him out of the Dacha. Bernie will still consult on weapons development and maybe the army can find him some criminals to pull his triggers for him. As long as they aren’t my people, I don’t really care.”
This was a very natural thing for a member of the nobility to say, though Boris knew most up-timers wouldn’t think so. There was a certain coldness that came with the territory. Let the monster go kill other people if it was inconvenient to stop him, just so long as they weren’t her people.
“If you try to give him to me, the bureaus will scream,” Boris said with some regret. There were contracts to be had, not just with the main army but with the Streltzi of all the towns and cities in Russia. “I would suggest you give him to the Streltzi Bureau, and through them to the army. They will be thrilled.”
Which was what they ended up doing. The Gun Shop, as it came to be known, was placed at another small town about thirty miles south of Moscow and about twenty miles away from the Dacha. If there was need, they could get in touch with the Gun Shop or it could get in touch with them. And in the meantime, Andrei Korisov was out of Natasha’s hair and no danger to her servants.