1624: THE BALTIC WAR – snippet 20:



            Thorsten pondered the matter. He’d had so little direct contact with up-timers that he’d never really given any thought at all to what they’d done or who they’d been in the world they came from. To him, as to most Germans he knew, all the Americans seemed somehow Adel. True, they didn’t fit any of the existing categories of the nobility, but what difference did that make? They’d simply added another one of their own, which they enforced either by simple prestige or the still simpler method of beating nay-sayers into a pulp on a battlefield.


            A coal miner.


            Thorsten came from a village not far from Amberg in the Upper Palatinate. There were iron mines all over that area. For generations, men in his family had often supplemented their income by doing a stint of work in the mines. Thorsten himself had done so for a few months, when he was seventeen.


            A former miner, for a commander. That might be… pleasant. Even in a war.


            Perhaps especially in a war. Anger that had been simmering for a day and half, under the grief and the guilt, fed by the nightmares and the horrible sudden images, began to surface.


            The accident hadn’t been Thorsten’s fault. Being fair, it hadn’t even been the fault of Underwood or the plant manager. Everyone was being pushed, by the demands of the war. Which was just another way of saying, by the aggression of Richelieu and Christian IV of Denmark and Charles I of England and the Habsburg king of Spain.


            “So fuck them,” Thorsten growled softly. He liked the way things were happening in Magdeburg, and everywhere else that he knew of in the Germanies that the up-timers had an effect upon. One of his uncles and three of his cousins had moved to Bamberg after their village had been destroyed. Thorsten had gotten some letters from them since. Part of what they talked about in those letters was their good opinion of the new up-timer administration of Franconia. And part of the letters seemed very veiled, which meant that something explosive was brewing down there. Something which the Americans might not be leading or even really know about, but also something that his uncle and cousins didn’t expect the up-timers to oppose, either.


            A prince of Germany—the only prince that all Germans had, commoners for sure; that much Thorsten had already concluded—who had once been a coal miner. That was also… pleasant to think about.


            “Okay,” he said, unthinkingly using the one American loan word that had swept over Germany faster than any plague and bid fair to do the same across all of Europe. “Where do I sign up?”


            Achterhof hoisted his stein in another half-salute. “Right here. In about”—he glanced at the big clock hanging over the bar—“forty-five minutes. I told Frank to meet us here.”


            Both Engler and Krenz stared at him.


            That vulpine smile that fit so easily came back to Gunther’s face. “I told you. I know him. Quite well, in fact. And he’s partial to the beer in this tavern, and doesn’t mind getting his general’s hands dirty doing lowly recruitment work. He’s very enthusiastic about the new squads, too.”


            He looked down at his stein, which he’d set back on the table. It was almost empty. “Speaking of which—another round? Oh, stop looking like a fretful housewife, Thorsten. I’ll buy.”




            Achterhof did know Jackson quite well, as it turned out. The first sentences out of the American general’s mouth after Gunther finished his summary of the way Thorsten had been singled out for blame due to the accident was:


            “Quentin Underwood is the biggest fuckwad asshole who ever disgraced the state of West Virginia. Yeah, fine, he’s a competent mine manager. He’s also a complete prick and a miserable shithead and if the cocksucker was lying in the gutter dying of thirst the only thing I’d do is walk over there to piss all over the worthless motherfucker.”


            He took a long pull on his beer. “So forget that bullshit. What matters is that after Gunther raised this with me, I went and talked to Mike about it. He was right there next to the two of you all the way through that nightmare. He told me if I didn’t sign you up, assuming you volunteered, I’d be an idiot. Not to mention a bigger asshole than Underwood, which probably isn’t possible anyway given the laws of nature.”


            Another long pull. “So. Thorsten, I can start you right off as a sergeant. We promote from the ranks, so anything after that is up to you. Eric, you’ll be what in my old army we would have called—ah, never mind—but what it amounts to is a technical specialist. The thing is, these Requa volley guns aren’t that complicated all by themselves. They’re really just a fancier version of organ guns. But what I’m looking toward is replacing them as soon as we can with real machine guns. That’ll most likely be Gatlings, first off, but who knows? So I need as many men as I can get who’ve got the knack for this stuff. Especially someone like you—this is what Gunther tells me—who comes from a gunsmith’s background.”




            When Engler and Krenz reported to the army headquarters the next morning, so it proved. The papers were already prepared and ready for their signatures, enlisting both of them in one of the new heavy weapons units. As promised, Engler with the rank of sergeant and Krenz with a specialist rating.


            No clerk had made an error.


            Given Jackson’s command of the more salient features of Amdeutsch, Thorsten was not surprised. Paper was flammable, after all. So were clerks, when you got right down to it.