1636 The Atlantic Encounter – Snippet 31

Gordon paused to let it die down, before continuing. “You need to find allies — and find them everywhere you can. My nation is no longer at war with France, but we do not think that state of affairs will last for more than a few years. I am not in position to offer you a military pact at this moment, but the possibility exists for the future and I would ask you to take it under consideration. In the meantime…”

He took a deep breath. The rest of what he had to say was not likely to be met with much favor. “In the meantime, I strongly urge you to do all you can to avoid hostilities with the natives. Whether or not there is the possibility of forming an alliance with the tribes –“

Another little hubbub swept the room. Gorgon couldn’t make out the words but the underlying sentiment was clear enough. This man is a blithering fool was the gist of it.

But he soldiered on. “You still do not want the natives to become allies of the French — and you can be sure the French will be striving to make them such. There is nothing you can do to prevent the French from offering gifts and blandishments to the tribes, but you can do all in your power to keep the natives from becoming your enemies even before the French begin their machinations.”

He was tempted to go on, but this was not a receptive audience. The longer he preached to them, the more likely they were to simply dig in their heels. He’d made his points; let them ponder the matter for a while. In any event, he had come to the conclusion that whatever might or might not develop, the Puritans and Pilgrims were clearly going to be the laggards straggling behind — if they ever joined at all.

So, he sat down. Winthrop was lost in thoughts for several moments, while the audience in the meeting house once again took to conversation. Finally he rapped them to silence once more.

“We will consider all you have proposed,” he said at last.

And that was that.

* * *

After they left and were well away from any unfriendly ears, Pete made his own consideration clear. “What a bunch of useless assholes. Can we get out of here already?”

“Yes,” said Gordon. “Let’s try the Dutch in New Amsterdam.”

Brest

Brittany, France

The port of Brest lay on either side of the river. It was dominated by the extended fortifications and naval wharves that le Cardinal had ordered to be built beginning five years ago.

On the naval dock, in the shadow of the great tower that Sourdéac had built a generation earlier, the grand-maître de la navigation and his father, the Marquis de Brézé and Marshal of France, looked out across the goulet that separated the harbor from the wider roadstead beyond.

“The wind is fresh,” Urbain de MaillĂ©-BrĂ©zĂ© said. “With up-time navigation you should have a fair sail.”

“I still feel as if…what do the up-timers say? I am being played.”

“Serving the will of His Majesty is not being played, Armand,” the Marquis answered. “This is an important mission.”

“I am at His Majesty’s service, of course. But I fail to see its importance, Father. Why waste resources and manpower and time on a place so far away?”

“I think I can answer that,” his father said. He looked away from his son and held his hand over his eyes against the glimmer of the sun on the water.

“Yes?”

“You cannot see it, my son. But it is there. Beyond the goulet, beyond the Brest Roadstead, beyond the outer islands…beyond the ocean — there is the future.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Have you read up-timer history, Armand? I have, and Cardinal Richelieu certainly has. In the time line from which the up-timers came, the power and the wealth of the world shifted westward to the Western Hemisphere. One of the most powerful and most wealthy places was Virginia. His Eminence recognized the potential, and it is the essential reason why France has acquired those vast territories.”

“Surely the king of England must have known this as well.”

“Suffice it to say that the king of England does not impress me as a monarch who takes the long view. He did make use of up-time accounts to act preemptively against those who would act against him in the future — the dissenter Puritans, the radicals in their Parliament, and so forth, who would eventually put him to death — but he completely ignored the value of his North American possessions.”

“That strikes me as absurd, Father. If these Godforsaken places were destined to be rich, why would he sell all of them for any amount of money? And why sell them to France?”

“The cardinal, your uncle, can be very persuasive. What is more, I think that King Charles was thinking more about keeping his head attached to his neck than whether he could reap profits from tobacco.”

“When were his enemies scheduled to commit this regicide?”

“1649.”

“More than ten years in the future?” Armand de MaillĂ©-BrĂ©zĂ© almost broke out in laughter. “Surely with the other steps he had already taken, his path would not lead to the loss of his life, at least not in that way.”

“King Charles is obsessive,” Urbain said. “And a fool. What England would have become — it will never be. France will take its place. France will be the greatest country in this century.

“And, Armand, you will be part of it. Your fleet –“

“Two ships is not a fleet, Father.”

“Your ships will carry the banner of France to His Christian Majesty’s new possessions. And there is something else, something you have not been told. There is an up-timer ship, and it is somewhere on the coast of the New World, and it may be carrying up-time technology. It might even already be in Virginia. In addition to imposing His Majesty’s will upon the colonists, you are also to locate this ship and, if at all possible, capture it.”

“What of the up-timers aboard?”

“Your uncle would like them to become…our guests.”

“And not drowned in the Ocean Sea, I assume.”

“It was not specified,” Armand said. “I assume that it would be better for them to survive, but c’est la guerre if they do not.”

Bamberg, capital of the State of Thuringia-Franconia

United States of Europe

Ed Piazza sighed and leaned back in his chair. “I suppose there’s no chance…”

Estuban Miro shrugged. “There is always ‘a chance,’ Mr. President. Or it might be better to say, there are too many chances. There is the chance that the Challenger was destroyed at sea in a storm; or ran aground; or was ambushed by pirates. There is the chance that the radio simply malfunctioned. Going a bit further afield, there is the chance –“

Piazza waved his hand in a gesture that was a bit weary. The silence coming from the Atlantic was only one of many problems besetting him at the moment, and not by any means the most pressing. “Never mind. There’s no point in speculating. All we really know is that we’ve heard nothing from Gordon Chehab for weeks — long past the point where he should have been able to report, no matter what the conditions for transmission were.”

“Yes.”

“Though he might be able to contact us from the tower in the Caribbean.”

“Ah. That.” Muro shifted in his seat. “He could . . . if he knew about it. We decided, for reasons of operational security, not to brief Chehab on it.”

“Because –”

“Because, Mr. President, they were equipped with their own radio. There would be no need to travel that far – considerably beyond the expected range of their expedition – to use another.”

“Even as a backup?”

“Even so.”

There seemed nothing more to say. Or do. Ed could only hope that two more of the few Americans who’d passed through the Ring of Fire into this New World hadn’t been lost, as so many had by now.

He picked up another of the many pieces of paper on his desk. “Okay, what’s the story with –“