1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 07

1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 07

“No!” Marat said. “Under no circumstances. Those barges are Princess Natasha’s and so is the gear on them. Not Czar Mikhail’s.”

“Captain!” Tim said.

“No!” Marat said. “I’m sorry, General.” And he sounded sorry, Ivan noted. He even sounded like he believed in Tim’s new rank. “It’s not my choice. Those goods belong to the princess, and I have to make sure that they get to her in Ufa.”

“And we will get them there, Captain. Believe me, we will. Even if we have to carry them on our backs.”

“I guess we could do that,” Ivan offered. “There are wagons. We could take some of it with us overland. And if we go overland, that will free up more space on the boats.”

They were in Bor for another day as they rearranged the gear and let everyone make up their mind what they were going to do.

Tim insisted that people be allowed to make up their own minds, saying it was Czar Mikhail’s will that joining him be a free choice by free men. Ivan looked at Tim, and Tim explained. “You weren’t on the steamboat with us coming down from Murom. We talked a lot about what it would take to make the new Russia work, and a big part is having people have a stake in it. Czar Mikhail is convinced that those who follow him to Ufa must decide freely, not be forced into it. There is some psychological study that the up-timers did about it.”

Ivan shrugged. It wasn’t up to him. No. It was. It had been his decision in a way, even if he had fallen into it. He couldn’t honestly say he had been forced or coerced, not really.

Finally the boats left and the army — such as it was — marched out along the shore of the Volga.

Russia House, Grantville

July 1636

Prince Vladimir Gorchakov sat at the computer and typed out a letter. He then encoded it using the program Pretty Good Privacy and saved the encrypted file to a floppy disk. After pulling the floppy out of the drive, he handed it to Gregorii. “You know what to do.”

Gregorii would go to the Higgins Hotel and upload the floppy to the Grantville Wide Web from there, leaving no way to trace where it had come from. In a day or two, one of Francisco Nasi’s agents would pick it up and send it to him in Magdeburg, where he would decode it.

“Do you think he will go for it?” Brandy asked.

“I don’t know,” Vladimir admitted. “We have a lot of wealth. We’re just short of cash. So a loan on our interest in the microwave research isn’t unreasonable. They are making decent progress, after all.”

***

Three days later, they got a response. It was encrypted and put up on the “Secret Message” news group. All the spies in Grantville — at least all the tech savvy spies in Grantville who had access to a computer — downloaded the full contents of that news group on a regular basis. Vladimir did it daily.

Once the message was unencrypted, it simply read “Have a talk with Ron Stone.”

Which was interesting in itself. Vladimir didn’t think Ron Stone was any sort of spy. But he went ahead and made the appointment.

Lothlorien Farbenwerk

“Have a seat, Prince Vladimir. What can I do for you today?”

Ron Stone rose politely from behind his desk and gestured toward a chair against the side of the wall nearby. The chair he indicated looked quite comfortable — quite a bit more so, in fact, that the very utilitarian chair Stone himself was using.

Ron Stone looked much like his chair. On the new side — he was still a very young man — and well-made in a plain, undecorated, functional sort of way. His eyes were hazel and his hair was straight, a sort of dark blond in color. He was not what you’d call a handsome man, but not so far from it, either.

Stone was of medium height, for an American. His physique was perhaps a bit stocky but there was little fat on him. Like his older brother Frank, he had been something of an athlete in school.

(Soccer, though, not one of the Culturally Sanctioned Up-time sports like football or basketball. As Brandy had explained the matter, in up-time high school — at least of pre-Ring of Fire vintage — this placed Ron Stone on the nerd side of the dark and bitter chasm between nerds and jocks. Americans could be peculiar, sometimes.)

“Are you aware of what’s going on in Russia?” Vladimir asked, after he sat down.

Stone resumed his own seat. “I think so, at least in broad outlines. A powerful nobleman named Sheremetev tried to supplant Czar Mikhail by placing the czar under what amounted to house arrest. But he escaped, with the aid of the American Bernie Zeppi and Russian associates of his, and is now setting up what he claims to be the legitimate government of Russia in a place called Ufa that’s far to the east. I think it’s close to the Urals although it’s not in Siberia. And… that’s where things stand at the moment. So far there hasn’t been much military action but that’s bound to change before too long.”

He shrugged apologetically. “I’m afraid I haven’t delved into any more detail than that. We just don’t have that much business with Russia and I’m constantly pre-occupied with more immediate matters.”

Vladimir had no trouble believe that. Ron Stone was the middle oldest of the three sons of Tom Stone, the man who had founded Lothlorien Farbenwerk. But Tom was not well-suited by temperament to be a businessman and preferred devoting his time to teaching. So, initially by nothing more complex than a process of elimination, his son Ron had wound up running the business instead. His older brother Frank was off being a revolutionary in Italy and the younger brother Gerry had devoted himself to becoming a Lutheran pastor.

It soon became evident, however, that Ron had a natural aptitude for the work he was doing. Brandy had told Vladimir that she thought it was because Ron had been raised a hippie and still pretty much had that mindset. For him, making money was a purely practical affair with no emotional baggage that got his ego tangled up in the process. Whether she was right or not, the one thing that was now clear was that Ron Stone — a man who had just turned twenty-one years of age — was the very capable chief executive officer of the world’s largest and most profitable chemical and pharmaceutical company.

“What it all comes down to is this,” said Vladimir. “For the moment I am cut off from a large part of my family’s wealth. I don’t expect to be permanently cut off from it, but it could happen. Meanwhile, I’m not going to be receiving the goods I have promised to deliver, giving me a serious cash flow problem and I am considerably over-extended. A mutual friend suggested I have a talk with you about it.”

“Yes. He wrote me about it.” Ron said. “I think I can help, and because our friend gives you good references, I’m inclined to. But I’m not running a charity.”

Vladimir opened his briefcase and pulled out document detailing his level of ownership in various projects. Vladimir wasn’t a great businessman. In fact, he wasn’t even a very good businessman. But he had had three things going for him over the last few years. He started out rich, Grantville was a boom town, and Vladimir had a spy network. It was focused on political and technological intelligence, but business intelligence fell right between political and technological. So he had acquired a fair amount of financially useful information over the years. There was also the Dacha, which had until very recently been sending him regular updates of what they were doing and what they had learned. Between those advantages, the disadvantage of not having an abundance of business acumen had been swamped. So Vladimir’s portfolio was both large and diverse.

In exchange for a carefully selected quarter of that portfolio, and agreements in regard to the data that they both hoped would be available from the Dacha, Ron Stone provided the cash that Vladimir needed to make good his debts.

 

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20 Responses to 1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 07

  1. Andy says:

    I didn’t have the impression that the “Dacha” operation was so significant. As a place of people who try to recreate uptime industrial technology, I had surmised there should be dozens or hundreds of similar operations closer to Grantville. But if Ron Stone is waiting for “data from the Dacha”, it must be of global significance, rather than just an industrialization hub for Russia. Interesting.

    • hank says:

      Well, if you take a random group of very smart people (plural noun needed) and practical craftsman, give them new ideas to play with and let them run, they are likely to come up with new approaches that might not appear to those who already “know” the answers. So the gang at the Dacha could reasonably be expected to turn up commercially viable ideas & techniques of use elsewhere. Ideas & such, even world changing ones, are light-weight and high value so…

      • donny says:

        The previous book in this thread gave no examples of new commercially viable ideas or techniques. Just about everything was a down-graded copy of something from Grantville. If Stone thinks anything from the Dacha is important, it probably has more to do with trade patterns rather than technology

        • Marvin Johnson says:

          While they may be “down-graded copies” of many things done in Grantville, they were also practical devices that could be made with a comparatively modest technology base too. In other words, very useful devices and ideas that could be used in places outside of the technologically developed core that is now Grantville and the SoTF.

          The electrical power plant, automobiles, automated machine tools, and other things that Grantville takes for granted that simply don’t exist elsewhere means that a further “geared down” set of devices that can be built literally anywhere with a basic blacksmith shop like exists throughout Russia and frankly the rest of Europe is of incredible value.

      • Andy says:

        You would expect that random group of people to appear much closer to Grantville. In fact, dozens such groups should exist, in all of Europe, and obviously in the ottoman empire.

        That was why I am surprised about the Dacha’s significance.

  2. donny says:

    I was under the impression Stone was in the army during 1636 not in Grantville/

  3. Lyttenburgh says:

    ““No!” Marat said. “Under no circumstances. Those barges are Princess Natasha’s and so is the gear on them. Not Czar Mikhail’s.””

    Looks we have “a hero” here :). While his dog-like fidelity to knyazhna is admirable, he is simply in no position to argue with Czar’s men. People of higher station got whipped for less. Don’t like it? File an official complaint chelobitnaya on Czar’s name, listing all wrongdoings his men did and let him decide. No other way.

    “Czar Mikhail is convinced that those who follow him to Ufa must decide freely, not be forced into it. There is some psychological study that the up-timers did about it.””

    Again – magic(k)all rrrracially superior up-timers whom EVERYONE just decided to trust. Oh, what a burden!

  4. Robert Victoria says:

    I believe the dacha is turning out stuff that is commercially viable and manufacturable outside the Grantville area. This means that while not as good as Grantville stuff, it is useful and profitable.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “I believe the dacha is turning out stuff that is commercially viable and manufacturable outside the Grantville area.”

      And I do not believe that. The whole concept of “dacha” (and anachronistic term that has nothing to do with 17 c.) is silly. Why did Peter the Great did everything he did without it? Why under his reign despite undeniable industrialization and wersternization of Russia there was nothing of the sort described by our “knowledgeable” authors, like no private “bolthole” to churn out designs accessible to anyone, no new class of “industrialists”? Why did it appear here? The authors are silent. They simply do not care.

      • donny says:

        Just as I said, the innovation results from changes in trade patterns.

      • donny says:

        “And I do not believe that. The whole concept of “dacha” (and anachronistic term that has nothing to do with 17 c.) is silly. Why did Peter the Great did everything he did without it? Why under his reign despite undeniable industrialization and wersternization of Russia there was nothing of the sort described by our “knowledgeable” authors, like no private “bolthole” to churn out designs accessible to anyone, no new class of “industrialists”? Why did it appear here? The authors are silent. They simply do not care.”

        The author of the above does not seem to realize that the ring of fire occurred for this series. History is not predetermined, it is contingent, and the existence of the Ring makes the existence of the Dacha reasonable. What Peter did with the resources available to him is totally irrelevant.

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “The author of the above does not seem to realize that the ring of fire occurred for this series. History is not predetermined, it is contingent, and the existence of the Ring makes the existence of the Dacha reasonable. What Peter did with the resources available to him is totally irrelevant.”

          RoF is not a “get out of the plot-hole card”. You must explain – step-by-step – every flap of butterflies wings why this happened this and not that way. There is reason for everything – why something did happened that way, or why something failed to happen. If the book does not offer the plausible explanation for the change in the development path it fails its job as “alt-hist”.

      • A Russian Jew says:

        The whole concept of “dacha” (and anachronistic term that has nothing to do with 17 c.) is silly.
        Authors were obviously inspired by the concept of Sharashka and general direction of the Stalin’s industrialization “dumb down the technology to a degree that a bunch of peasants without any useful skills can replicate it into something moderately useful”. Taking into account that the government (before the “Sheremetev affair”) did put more or less considerable resources in it, results could’ve been quite significant. Besides, a distance from Grantville could’ve been a blessing, not a curse. Uptimers are constantly falling into a trap of trying to re-create postindustrial technologies, like blasted “microwave electronics”, and what’s necessary is a cheap and reliable solution for pre-industrial problems. How to mass-produce serviceable weapons, clothes, chemicals, how to build good cheap tools, factory engines, how to build canals (i.e. produce a lot of cheap explosives). Dacha, being exposed to uptime technology enough to get the idea but being far enough from Grantville for those “post-industrial” ideas (IMO a waste of resources) to affect them, could’ve produced several truly profitable technologies. The reliable rifled breechloader, mass-produced by pre-industrial workforce (IIRC they did something of the nature under the name of AK in previous books), alone is a veritable goldmine.

  5. Lyttenburgh says:

    But what baffles me the most are the constant talks about some kind of “freedom” coming from the mouths of 17 c. downtimers. What are they talking about? Besides – are our well-versed in nothing authors know such inconvenient fact, that in Russian there are two words that correspond to the term [freedom]? Which one do the cardboard characters mean there? Is it [volya], meaning the will to exercise one’s potential within your predetermined boundaries of class, sosloviye, community and personal station? Or is it [svoboda], which is really “just another word for nothing left to lose”, for complete separation from the community?

    • Al Viro says:

      Care to provide references? _Not_ from political polemics, please – there you’ll find any amount of stretches in all thinkable directions. Opposition you are talking about definitely doesn’t match the 19–20c language and what I know of 18c sources also doesn’t look similar. For which century would you claim those connotations and what is that claim based upon?

      BTW, Gal 5:1 in Church Slavionic: “Свободою убо, еюже Христос нас свободи, стойте, и не паки под игом работы держитеся.” Sure, it’s not Russian, but that was close enough to be understood and that’s what the liturgy used.

      And for “political rights/freedoms” I would probably try “vol’nosti” (liberties, both as in “granted to” and “taken by”). Without digging through the actual sources from the first half of 17c it’s no more than a guess based on 18c uses, though, and that lexical layer could’ve been heavily changed by Lomonosov et.al.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “Care to provide references? _Not_ from political polemics, please – there you’ll find any amount of stretches in all thinkable directions. Opposition you are talking about definitely doesn’t match the 19–20c language and what I know of 18c sources also doesn’t look similar. For which century would you claim those connotations and what is that claim based upon?”

        Goalposts too narrow, methinks. What do we know about 17th c. Russian perception of the “freedom”? Well, for one it differed from the one of today, because a lot of ideologies exalting it as a value did not exist back then. So that’s the only argument I can seriously make due to the lack of sources proclaiming otherwise loud and clear – that 17th c. Russian concept of freedom was not the same as of the modern era, and that it was rooted in the objective reality of the time period.

        That was the objective reality where the vast majority of the population was rural, patriarchal, illiterate, traditional, religious and hierarchical. Clearly, you can’t have modern day notion of democracy taking the root here successfully.

        Here’s the fact – yes, serfs run away. They did not run away to the Siberia mostly, preferring instead joining the “vol’niye lyudi” of Don – the Cossacks. There is also not so inconsiderable fact that the authors (judging by their previous works) seem to believe that entire world, no matter time and place, just waits the messiah-like figure of the proper up-timer, and that this proper up-timer-sahib will uplift the primitive natives to the higher level. Some of the will even be granted the title of the honorary whites up-timers. The minority of the natives will get that new status for life. So it’s not about “freedom” no matter what guise or word we gonna use. Its about up-timers showing off.

    • Andy says:

      I don’t care a lot about your tone.

      I have my own problems with the series, for example I’d have cherished a deeper look into medical technology. The book about Gribbleflotz was a total disaster in that regard, with not much knowledge about modern or down-time medicine.

      But please, don’t insult authors for not knowing everything which is so obvious to you.

  6. Nguyen Gia Thai says:

    The Dacha’s significance comes from a working research institute with results: primitive designs that work in primitive conditions. Something that Germany’s Grantville wont necessary think of, simply due to its very primitive design. Yet once it come out, it find a market in Europe. Niche markets, too, but what of it?

    Your failing to appreciate Dacha’s significance still come from your current mindset, in a world full of research institutes and workshops. Not in the Grantville universe where such things can be counted on one hand. Outside of Grantville and Moscow’s Dacha, what else is there? Britain? Nope. Paris? Nope. Austrian Vienne? Nope. Spanish Madrid? Nope. There’s barely a start on Netherland’s Amsterdam and it diffuse into satellite towns, not concentrate on one place (if you count on the whole Netherlands, then it goes strong, but just not in one place)

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