1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 01
1636: The Viennese Waltz
Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett and Gorg Huff
Chapter 1: Family Issues
Liechtenstein House, outside the Ring of Fire
Prince Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein watched Istvan Janoszi smile nervously as he was ushered into the oak-paneled room. It was perfectly clear to Karl that Janos Drugeth’s minion didn’t want to be here.
“What can I do for you, Your Serene Highness?” Istvan asked.
Karl held up a cut-crystal glass with a light yellow bubbling liquid in it, swirled it around for a moment, sniffed, took a sip and made a face. “The latest attempt at producing Sprite still leaves something to be desired.” Karl waved Istvan to one of the padded leather chairs he had in his study and continued. “But you don’t care about that. Nor should you. What you care about is recruiting up-timers to go to Austria. And yet, at last report His Imperial Majesty Ferdinand II doesn’t believe that up-timers have anything of real value to offer the world. Or has that changed since last I heard from my uncles?”
Karl waited to see if Istvan would lie. He ought to know better but he was probably a bit off his game.
“Prince Ferdinand would like an up-time car and someone to take care of it.”
So. Not a lie, but not the whole truth either. “And?”
“And what, Your Serene Highness?” That was a weak response.
“And does his imperial father know? And why the Fortneys? And what happens to the Sanderlins and Fortneys when they arrive in Vienna under Ferdinand II’s eye? For that matter, what happens to Prince Ferdinand when they arrive?”
“That’s a lot of ands.”
“I have more, but start with those.” There was nothing at all soft or gentle in Karl’s voice. He didn’t appreciate people playing games with his friends.
Istvan was a reasonably brave man but he swallowed, then began to explain. “No. As I understand it, the emperor doesn’t know. He is very ill and not expected to last more than another couple of months.”
“Less than that if they bleed him, which they probably will,” Karl agreed. “Go on.”
“His Imperial Highness, the prince, does not wish to distress his father.”
“But he wants to get them there as soon as he can, without upsetting the emperor. His Imperial Majesty is quite unreasonable about the Ring of Fire and all that it implies, I know. I have gotten chapter and verse on that from my uncles in Vienna,” Karl said.
“Yes, Your Serene Highness. As to the Fortneys, they will be hired because Ron Sanderlin insisted.” Istvan seemed about to continue but didn’t. Karl noticed, but wasn’t sure what it meant.
“And aside from the car, which I don’t doubt Ferdinand does want,” Prince Karl said, “he also wants all the technological transfer he can manage. I take it from your comment that there is no great rush to get them there.”
“Not exactly, Your Serene Highness. I think most delays will happen on the road before we reach the Danube. So I would like to have them at the Danube and waiting before the emperor . . .”
Karl moved to a seat across the coffee table from Istvan and sat down. “And then have them wait where until he dies?”
Karl nodded. Regensburg was a good stopping point. “My interest, which you should feel perfectly free to put in your next report to Janos, is mostly in the Fortney family because of business connections. They asked me what they should take to Vienna and I wanted to know what their situation was likely to be before I advised them. Given what you have said, I will advise them to take as much as they can carry. That will be all.”
Istvan got up and started to leave, but Karl thought of something else. “No. Not quite all. Another of those ‘ands’ I mentioned. How much is Ferdinand paying for the cars? For that matter, how much is he paying the mechanics?”
Istvan winced, then said, “One million American dollars for the car. They insisted on American dollars.”
The prince snorted a laugh. “I imagine they did. You didn’t try to get them to take HRE reserve notes, did you?” There were two new versions of HRE reichsthaler that had been tried since the Ring of Fire. The first were Holy Roman Empire notes based on the principles of the federal reserve notes that the up-timers issued, commonly called American dollars. Those notes had been rejected by anyone who had any choice in the matter at all, and had lasted only about eight months. While they had never actually been recalled, they were effectively out of service by mid-1633. Prince Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein had never found it necessary to take any, but his uncles had found it unavoidable. The second notes, the silver-backed HRE reichsthaler, had been more successful and had some value even in the USE. It was, in theory, a note issued on a full reserve depository, exchangeable on demand for 0.916 up-time ounces of silver, the equivalent of a Bank of Amsterdam guilder. However, a lot of people in the USE seemed to doubt that claim, or were simply unwilling to take HRE silver-backed reichsthaler to get the silver. So the HRE reichsthaler was trading at about half the value of a Bank of Amsterdam guilder.
“Welcome, Mr. Sanderlin, Mr. Fortney, and company,” Prince Karl said graciously as the gaggle of up-timers arrived in his foyer. “I would greet you all as you deserve, but it would probably take too long.” Karl ushered them all into his larger sitting room and motioned them to the conversation area with its delicate chairs and tables.
“Thanks for talking to us, Your Serene Highness,” said Ron Sanderlin. “I didn’t know you were involved with this.”
Karl waited as people found chairs then answered. “I’m not, or at least I wasn’t until Judy Wendell called me about it. After that I called Istvan Janoszi to find out what was going on. I understand you’re selling your car, or at least a car, to His Imperial Highness.”
“Yes, to Prince Ferdinand,” Sanderlin agreed. “And he hired me and my uncle to look after it. Frankly, it seems pretty weird. One car and two mechanics, unless Janoszi finds another car to buy. They didn’t even squawk too much when I hooked Sonny in on the deal.”
Karl noticed the slightly shifty expression on Sanderlin’s face when he mentioned Sonny Fortney, but made sure his expression stayed politely curious. “And why did you invite Mr. Fortney in on the deal?”
“Well, partly it was because Ron knew I was looking for a different job,” Sonny Fortney said, in a sort of slow drawl that suggested he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. But Karl had met his daughter Hayley and couldn’t believe that the father of a girl like that was slow-witted. “Partly it was because Ron was a little nervous about taking his family so far from Grantville all by themselves. Like I’d be able to do anything if your folks decided to roast us all on spits.”
“I assure you, sir, we’ll not roast you on spits,” Karl said with great dignity, then added, “Deep frying, that’s the way to prepare up-timer.”
Sonny Fortney gave Karl a slow grin. “See, Ron? I told you they was civilized.”
“What sort of job are you looking for, Mr. Fortney?”
“I’m a steam-head, Prince Karl. And interested in railroads.”
“I’m sure that Prince Ferdinand will find use for your skills, Mr. Fortney. But you’re here to learn about Vienna and what you might want or need there?”
“Yes, Your Highness,” Ron Sanderlin said.
They spent the next few hours chatting about what might be of use to the two families who were moving to Austria.
“My parents are kidnapping me!” Hayley Fortney wailed over the phone. Hayley wasn’t quite fifteen.
Judy the Younger Wendell, who had just turned sixteen a month ago, held the phone away from her ear for a moment but she still heard in the background, “Hayley! It’s nothing like that and you know it. Your father got a good job. That’s all!”
“Like I said,” Hayley continued. “My parents are kidnapping me. I need to know what to take to freaking Austria!”
“I don’t have any idea, but I think I know who to ask.”
“Prince Karl.” Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein had been the Barbie Consortium’s main financial backer since his return from Amsterdam at the beginning of the year.
“The Ken Doll?”
“He’s from there. He should know what they have and what they need.”
“Okay,” Hayley agreed, sounding less panicked. “But he’s the Ken Doll. You know, stands around looking pretty and giving us money.”
Which was a patent untruth. Prince Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein was anything but a Ken Doll. He was, in fact, the head of his family — his rather wealthy family — in the Holy Roman Empire, an acquaintance of His Majesty Ferdinand II as well as His Royal Highness Ferdinand, who would probably become Ferdinand III in the near future. Prince Karl was indeed rich, and smart enough to let others with more financial acumen manage that wealth.
“Sure, but he was a royal prince before that. Besides, I think Sarah has the hots for him.” Sarah was Judy’s older sister and the source of Judy’s information when back in late 1631 Judy had organized her friends on the Grantville Middle School cheerleading squad into the Barbie Consortium.
“What about David?”
“She’s still dating him. Too. I didn’t think Sarah had it in her.”
Apparently even juicy gossip about Judy’s older sister wasn’t enough to distract Hayley for long. “Never mind that. I know he’s a prince and you know that just means one of his ancestors was a successful crook.”
“His dad, actually,” Judy explained unnecessarily. “And both his uncles, one way or another. Don’t you pay attention to anything but nuts and bolts?”
“Nope,” Hayley said proudly. “The rest is just paperwork so I have the nuts and bolts I need.” Which was another patent falsehood. Hayley was the Barbie Consortium’s mechanical “genius” though she wasn’t in the same class as Brent and Trent Partow in Judy’s opinion. But she was not really ignorant of what the rest of the Barbies did.
Judy wisely let it pass. “Karl will know what opportunities there are in the sticks.” It didn’t occur to Judy Wendell that there was anything odd in calling the capital of the Holy Roman Empire “the sticks.” To her, civilization had arrived on Earth with the Ring of Fire and she lived in its center. As soon as she was off the phone with Hayley, she called Karl.