1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 08

1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 08

Chapter 2: Outpost

Ufa, Russia

July, 1636

Olga Petrovichna went into the tax warehouse with her slate and her charcoal stick. Her worthless husband was supposed to be doing this, but Stanislav Ivanovich Polzin was drunk again. He was usually drunk by noon and it was late afternoon now. Olga sighed. She had long since regretted marrying him, even if he did have a secure post and the family connections to keep it.

“Look up there!”

Olga looked around, even before she identified the voice. It was Sergei Sergeevich, one of the streltzi. It took her only a moment to recall that he would be on guard in the west tower. She went out the door again, and looked up to see Sergei Sergeevich gesturing at the sky, still yelling. She followed his pointing arm and saw a whale flying through the sky. For a moment she was sure it was a whale. Not that she had ever seen a whale, but her grandpa — who had been a sailor — told her about them. Then, as she watched it, her memory caught up with her. There were stories from back west about great flying machines. And the whale had markings. In fact, it had the imperial crest clearly visible on the bottom of the thing. And it was coming right at them.

Olga wondered how Sergei had failed to see it till it got this close. Maybe because it was silent. Then she heard a faint noise. The thing wasn’t silent, not quite, but it was quiet.

Olga turned back to the tax warehouse and yelled, “Someone go to the tavern and get my idiot husband! Mother Russia has remembered we’re here.”

***

Bernie looked down at the scurrying people in the town of Ufa. “I wondered when they’d notice us.” Bernie felt like he had wandered into a western movie. Fort Apache, maybe. But in any case, it looked like one of the movies that had the wooden stockade surrounding the buildings. A high budget technicolor movie, the sort where the camera zoomed in from on high. He was looking down at a western fort with a town next to it, with just enough Russian bits to make him feel off about it all. The fort was vaguely rectangular, with four watch towers, a bunch of one- and two-story log cabins, and one stone church. Just to the east of the fort was a ramshackle bunch of log cabins, all single story and not overly well made. To the south about three hundred yards were the docks on the Belaya River. The Belaya River was about three hundred yards wide at this point and twisty as all get out. Fort Ufa was on the south end of a loop of river. From looking at the land and where the forest ended, Bernie figured that, come the spring floods, the river was going to come almost up to the fort. It was located as near the docks as they could get without flooding every spring.

“It’s not their fault,” Czar Mikhail said. “Who looks up from a tower? You watch the horizon, or the woods.”

“Prepare to drop anchor,” shouted Colonel Nikita “Nick” Ivanovich Slavenitsky. He was the commander of the Russian Air Force by personal appointment of Czar Mikhail. The crew made preparations, then a weighted spear with a line attached was dropped from the bow of the dirigible. It fell a hundred yards and landed in the mud next to the river, sinking several feet with the force of its fall. It was a stopgap measure to use if you didn’t have proper dirigible docking facilities.

A few minutes later, the dirigible was tied down, at least marginally, and lowered enough so that the passengers could debark by means of a rope ladder. For children — of which there seemed to be many — and cargo, they would use nets.

***

“The first thing we need is firewood,” Bernie Zeppi said.

“Why?” asked the woman who was apparently the wife of the commander of the garrison, such as it was. Thirty streltzi, who spent their time taxing the fur trade.

“The steam engines on the dirigible. A dirigible is a lot safer in the air under power than it is tied down in the open. And you don’t have a hangar for it.”

“Besides, we will want to use it,” Czarina Evdokia explained. They had discussed this on the trip from Bor. One of the very nice things about traveling by dirigible was the comfortable ride. There was plenty of room to move around and the ride was mostly smooth. You could talk and pace. You could spread maps out on tables and plan campaigns. You could talk about propaganda and medicine and all manner of things. And they had. They had even had breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the dirigible.

“How much wood?”

“A lot, but we have steamboats coming with people and equipment. We are probably going to end up deforesting a good part of the surrounding territory, both because we need the wood and because we need clear sight lines.”

“For now,” Evdokia explained, “Ufa is the capital of Russia.”

***

Bernie looked over at Natasha and smiled. There had been time to talk on the trip here, if not a lot of privacy. They were going to be forging a new Russia here. A Russia where a commoner like Bernie could marry a princess like Natasha. There had been time to talk, but no room to be alone. That was going to change now that they were here. No matter what Evdokia said. In fact, she hadn’t said they couldn’t be married, just that Bernie’s rank was still an issue.

In the air over Russia

Nikita Ivanovich Slavenitsky — Nick, according to Bernie Zeppi — looked out into the night sky. It was dark, really dark, and cloudy at nine hundred feet. He couldn’t see a thing. The Czarina was cruising along at half speed, and Nick was guessing about the wind so they, by this time, might be as much as a hundred miles off course in any direction. Unlike the Test Bed, the Czarina was a real dirigible, with a large carrying capacity for an airship and a large crew. He had spent a couple of days after arriving in Ufa restocking the Czarina with wood for her boilers, then Czar Mikhail sent them to the Swedish fortress, Nyenskans, on the Baltic coast with letters to everyone from Gustav Adolf to Brandy Bates.

The Czarina, assuming they weren’t headed for the North Pole by this time, should reach Nyen sometime around noon tomorrow, having left Ufa early this morning. They were running light with the extra weight taken up by extra wood and water to extend their range because the condensers were not exactly perfect.

Petr Nickovich Mikhailov, his executive officer, came up to him with a cup of tea. “How does it look, Skipper?”

“We might as well be on our way to Mars for all I can see,” complained Nick.

“I don’t think they have fog in space, Captain,” said Petr, who had been a braincase at the Dacha before transferring to Bor to take over the construction of the dirigibles. He had calmed down a lot and had volunteered to be part of the crew of the Czarina. Pete knew more about the Czarina than anyone alive, but he didn’t have a command mind. On the other hand, he had proven excellent with managing the details of shipboard operations. The Czarina had a crew of twenty-six. Nick was the captain, Petr his executive officer, and the chief engineer. Directly in Nick’s chain were his rudder men and the second and third watch pilots. Under Petr were the engineers, electricians, and riggers. The engineers ran the boilers, the engines and condensers. The electricians ran the generators, the radio, the electric lights and phone system. The riggers did just about everything else. There were also a cook and cook’s assistant, and four maids.

“Go to bed, Skipper. Let the midwatch handle things.”

“I think we ought to go up another five hundred feet,” Nick said.

Petr looked over at the barometer. “I don’t know, Captain. We don’t actually know how high we really are. All we have is the barometer. It’s not like we have a radar range finder. We might be higher than we think.”

“Or lower.”

“I doubt it, not at these temperatures. But if you want, we can pump some more hot air into the balance balloons.” The Czarina got most of her lift from hydrogen-filled lift chambers, but it had two large hot-air lift chambers, so that it could adjust lift without dumping either ballast or hydrogen. Adding more hot air to the hot-air lift chambers would increase their lift, and as they went up the hydrogen chambers would expand increasing their lift more. It was a positive feedback loop that, if handled wrong, could lift them high enough so that the hydrogen chambers would start to vent. That was dangerous. What they would have to do was increase the heat in the hot-air chambers then, once they gained altitude and the hydrogen chambers expanded, they would vent from the hot-air chambers to compensate for the increased lift of the expanded hydrogen chambers.

“Call Valeriya and get a read first,” Nick said.

Petr went over to a wall of the gondola and closed an electric switch.

***

Valeriya Zakharovna was climbing a ladder next to the left central lift chamber when she heard the bell ringing. She climbed down the ladder, wondering what it was about officers that they wouldn’t let a woman work. It took her a minute and a half to climb down to the phone. “Able Airwoman Zakharovna here,” Valeriya yelled into the mouthpiece. The phones on the Czarina were about on a par with the phones of Alexander Graham Bell’s day.

Then she stuck her ear against the earpiece and heard a very tinny voice say, “Have a look at the cells and tell us their level of expansion.”

“Aye aye.” Valeriya racked the mouthpiece and went back to the central lift chamber. When they had been moored, the chambers had been about three-quarters full. As the ship got higher and the outside air got thinner, the gas in the hydrogen chamber expanded, filling the chamber the rest of the way. Now they were about eighty-five percent full. She could tell because there were markings on a pole, and she could look across from where she was standing and see the marks. The highest mark she could see was the eighty-five percent mark. She went back to the phone and pushed the switch that would make it ring on the bridge.

“Eighty-five percent, sir,” she yelled into the phone.

The bridge acknowledged and she got back to work.

 

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9 Responses to 1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 08

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    “Olga Petrovichna”

    What are you doing, oh book! Can you decided on your naming conventions, already?! Is it 17 c. or anachronistic 21 c. standard?! What is “Petrovichna” here supposed to mean – you attempt to insert her patronymic or her surname? It can’t be surname, because her husband’s last name is Polzin.

    “She had long since regretted marrying him, even if he did have a secure post and the family connections to keep it.”

    Like she had any say in that.

    “She followed his pointing arm and saw a whale flying through the sky. For a moment she was sure it was a whale. Not that she had ever seen a whale, but her grandpa — who had been a sailor — told her about them.”

    Really? Where could he have seen them – in the Baltic? Sure, there was – very, extremely limited – whaling operation by the people near Kola (a few miles from the modern Murmansk). The authors just decided to run with a metaphor even not knowing whether the people of this time and place would know it. Poor work. Olga probably wouldn’t have seen any marine fauna larger than a catfish.

    “In fact, it had the imperial crest clearly visible on the bottom of the thing.”

    “Imperial”?

    “Mother Russia has remembered we’re here.”

    Fun fact – Russians do not use the expression “Mother Russia”. Why this myth persists?

    “Bernie felt like he had wandered into a western movie. Fort Apache, maybe.”

    It is not, but the authors will try to make it one –aka “Eastern”, i.e. “Western Recycled in Russia”. With predictably disappointing results judging by what is already revealed to us.

    “But in any case, it looked like one of the movies that had the wooden stockade surrounding the buildings”

    Which he could have seen all those previous years while in Russia… Why single out this one town?

    “The fort was vaguely rectangular, with four watch towers, a bunch of one- and two-story log cabins, and one stone church”

    We don’t know for sure when in the first half of 17 c. the Smolensk Church (first stone Church of Ufa’s kremlin) had been finished.

    “…shouted Colonel Nikita “Nick” Ivanovich Slavenitsky”

    What with all those wrong nicknames? “Nick” is not a short form or a nickname for someone named Nikita.

    “There was plenty of room to move around and the ride was mostly smooth. You could talk and pace. You could spread maps out on tables and plan campaigns. You could talk about propaganda and medicine and all manner of things. And they had.”

    They had? Over the noise?

    “A Russia where a commoner like Bernie could marry a princess like Natasha.”

    Only it has been explained time and again in other novels – the downtimerd don’t think they are “commoners”, but a different set of nobility on their own. Just another wish fulfillment, planetary romance here instead.

    “The Czarina, assuming they weren’t headed for the North Pole by this time, should reach Nyen sometime around noon tomorrow”

    What, some invisible monster ate several letters from the name? “Nyen” is the Swedish for just the Neva river.

    “Petr Nickovich Mikhailov, his executive officer, his executive officer, came up to him with a cup of tea”

    Once again – what kind of naming convention do they use here? What “Nickovich” is even supposed to mean? Besides – tea? Really?

    ““We might as well be on our way to Mars for all I can see,” complained Nick.

    “I don’t think they have fog in space, Captain,” said Petr”

    Totally anachronistic thing for a downtimer to say. Try again.

    “Valeriya Zakharovna was climbing a ladder next to the left central lift chamber when she heard the bell ringing. She climbed down the ladder, wondering what it was about officers that they wouldn’t let a woman work. It took her a minute and a half to climb down to the phone. “Able Airwoman Zakharovna here,” Valeriya yelled into the mouthpiece. The phones on the Czarina were about on a par with the phones of Alexander Graham Bell’s day.”

    […]

    Do you even comprehend how pretty much anything you have written in this paragraph, even taking the RoF ino account, is just impossible?

    • regal says:

      Why do you even read the books if you hate them so much? I’ve been wondering that for a while. You come onto a site that is aimed a fans and proceed to go on practically every tread and complain. It’s like you’ve decided that if you don’t like something than no one else should either. Quite honestly, it’s ridiculous. You pretend to be some sort of superior intellect, but you constantly show yourself to be nothing but an internet troll.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “Why do you even read the books if you hate them so much? I’ve been wondering that for a while. You come onto a site that is aimed a fans and proceed to go on practically every tread and complain.”

        Because I don’t hate the books – I LOVE them! I AM a fan. I’ve been saying it here many times. It’s precisely because I love them that I offer my harsh yet totally deserving criticism. If I won’t point out the silly stuff it won’t become less silly or wrong, and it won’t disappear. I’m only a messenger bearing bad news – killing me won’t change the content.

        “You pretend to be some sort of superior intellect”

        Please, show exactly where I do that.

  2. Bret Hooper says:

    Only it has been explained time and again in other novels – the downtimerd [sic] don’t think they are “commoners”, but a different set of nobility on their own.

    Some─not all─down-timers decided that they could when needful consider up-timers a class approximately equivalent to adel; whether hoch- or niederadel is not entirely clear. Some don’t seem to worry about it. When one of the hochadel seduced a prominent up-timer and said up-timer proposed to his seductress, she simply accepted and they became betrothed, with nothing said about his caste. They loved each other, and that was all that mattered, as it should be.

  3. Bret Hooper says:

    A balloon using a combination of hydrogen and hot air: a disaster waiting to happen!

    • Marvin Johnson says:

      Hydrogen isn’t all that dangerous, as long as you are treating it with care. The largest problem with Hydrogen is embrittlement of materials where the Hydrogen bonds directly with the elements in those materials causing them to weaken. While a long term issue that would cause envelopes to be replaced on a regular schedule, it isn’t something to be worring about burning down.

      The problem with the Hindenberg is that it used rocket fuel on the outer skin that actually acted as an oxydizer for the Hydrogen gas. That was a disaster waiting to happen and actually did happen. There will be some problems with airships and some incredible disasters from people who are clueless about basic principles, but the fact it is Hydrogen isn’t directly a major issue.

      The hot air bags is actually an interesting solution to trim for the reasons given in this story so far.

      The tougher part that doesn’t make credible sense is that the airships of the early 20th Century were largely made out of Aluminum due to its light weight and structural strength it would provide. That is a material which in the 1600’s is more valuable than Silver as bulk material and for several centuries to come was even used with crown jewels for royalty.

      • Cobbler says:

        Aluminum was first isolated from bauxite in 1825 by Hans-Christian.

        Napoleon III served dinner guests on three ascending levels of importance. Silver for the lowbrow, gold for the middlebrow, aluminum for the highbrow.

        All those metals conduct heat well, insuring a cold dinner. Wooden trenchers and crockery plates are both technically superior.

  4. A Russian Jew says:

    princess Natasha
    The “Natasha” is a diminutive form of “Natalia”, allowed between friends, but not when you’re addressing a Romanov princess. Bernie could call her Natasha in intimate situations, but for everyone else (and for him in presence of other peoples) she would be Princess Natalia (whatever her patronimic is).

  5. A Russian Jew says:

    Swedish fortress, Nyenskans
    It is about 1000 km as crow flies between Ufa and river Neva mouth. A bit too much of endurance for a steam-powered dirigible with firewood for an energy source, don’t you think? On a flip side, nobody would prevent them from making a landing and chopping down several trees, if they need :)
    Petr Nickovich Mikhailov
    Nick is a diminutive of “Nikolay” (Nicholas), so you can’t have Nickovich. It would be “Nikolaevich”.
    Able Airwoman Zakharovna
    I don’t believe that 17th century Russians would include women in army under any circumstances. Valeria (not a name used then and there, to put it mildly) theoretically could, by some quirk of fate, get enough knowledge of dirigible-ing to be needed on “Czarina”, but she would be in capacity of “civil personnel attached to the unit” and would not have rank. And Zakharovna is patronymic, not a last name. So, instead of snippy “Able Airwoman Zakharovna, it would be very civilian “Zaharova is here, what do you need?” over the phone.
    There were also a cook and cook’s assistant, and four maids.
    For a crew of 26? Much too many. Even a dedicated cook is not too likely (if you’re a Russian soldier you have to be able to survive on field rations for a couple of days in the name of Mother Russia), although informally somebody in the unit would be in charge of making hot tisane to keep the crew warm. And maids are 100% unrealistic.

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