1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 36
A more realistic concern was that they would gain influence with the czar. Which in fact was true indirectly through Czarina Evdokia. Natasha, and now Brandy, had considerable influence with Czarina Evdokia and the czarina had considerable influence with the czar. Czar Mikhail was loved, but not that well respected. Not considered . . . particularly strong. Of course, his hands were tied. The Assembly of the Land, the Zemsky Sobor, had seen to that when he was elected. Those limitations might well explain why he was so popular. When the government got blamed for something it was usually his advisors, not the czar, who got the blame. It was known that Mikhail had cried when told he had been elected czar. As well, it was known that he had refused the crown. He had continued to refuse until told that if he didn’t accept, the blood of the next Time of Troubles would be on his hands.
Natasha knew the czarina, Evdokia. Before Bernie, that acquaintance would have given her family protection, but not much influence. Now that acquaintance was a way for up-time ideas to reach the czar without going through his father, who was also the patriarch of the Orthodox Church. And the ideas had gotten to Mikhail. Some of them, anyway.
Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev, Chief of the Bureau of Records, had read the reports. That was one of the reasons that he had pushed for this general demonstration of the products of the Dacha. One of the reasons — the other being his increasing concern about the influence of the Grantville Section and the Gorchakov family. He had been forced, almost against his will, to realize the importance that the Ring of Fire was going to have on the rest of the world, including Russia.
He watched Petr Nickovich pace about in a dither, getting in the way of the workmen handling the ropes and found himself tempted to do the same thing. He knew what was about to happen; he’d read about it in the reports. Then, as the ropes were let out, the thing began to rise. Two poles, about five feet apart with ropes going from them to a basket below and balloons above. He had thought that he knew what was going to happen, but he hadn’t realized what it would feel like. Twenty feet into the air, then twenty-five, thirty, supported by nothing but air. Its only connection to the earth the ropes that held it down. And in the basket that hung below the dirigible test bed, Nikita Slavenitsky smiled and waved to the crowd of dignitaries.
Sheremetev waved back; it was absolutely the least he could do. What he wanted to do was jump up and down and shout. A Russian was flying in the air, held aloft by the knowledge and craftsmanship of his fellow Russians. He had read that the up-timers had already flown. But knowing about it from a report was one thing, seeing it was something altogether different. The up-timers with their machines doing it was one thing. Russians making a flying device out of wood, rope and cow guts — that was something altogether different. Even in his excitement about the flight, he realized that it meant that one of his goals in forcing this demonstration had backfired. If anything it would increase the influence wielded by the Grantville Section. He looked over at the czar’s pet up-timer, in time to see Bernie looking bored. Then the outlander snorted a laugh.
Bernie could understand why Petr Nickovich was so nervous. Today the czar, the czarina and some members of the cabinet had come to see his baby fly. Bernie looked over at the big shots. They were gawking. Totally gone. You’d think the aliens were landing or something. Then he thought about it. Granted, it wasn’t that much of a dirigible. It had no power and there wasn’t much you could do with it, not yet. But, Nikita was the first Russian to fly in this timeline.
Wow! This was history. For here and now, this was like the first rocket ship to the moon or something. Bernie found himself giggling a bit. Nikita Ivanovich Slavenitsky was a nice guy and usually had a joke to tell or a dirty story. But he wasn’t the sort of guy you would think of as Yuri Gararin or Neil Armstrong. But Nick was going down in history anyway.
One of the big shots was looking a bit offended. “You find this funny?”
Bernie had forgotten the guy’s name. He was the head of one of the bureaus, Bernie knew that much. “It’s not that, sir. I just never thought that a guy I had a beer with every now and then would make history.”
“History?” The guy paused. Looked up and nodded. “The first Russian to fly.”
“Yes, sir,” Bernie said. “Nikita Ivanovich Slavenitsky and Petr Nickovich have done Russia proud today. Real proud.”
The big shot looked at Bernie a bit sharply for a moment, then he smiled. “You will excuse me, Bernie Janovich. I must speak to the czar.”
Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev headed back to the czar in a rather bemused state of mind. He wasn’t sure what to make of the up-timer. Bernie Janovich hadn’t tried to take credit for the flight, even though Sheremetev knew that his explanations had been a large part of making it possible. Nor had he been demeaning of the Russian efforts. Sheremetev didn’t know what to make of the man, and that bothered him. Over all, he rather liked Bernie Janovich. And that was unfortunate because sooner or later the Gorchakov clan had to go. There was too much power in the Dacha, even with the Gun Shop separated out. He glanced up at the flying carriage. Much too much power. Control of such devices and the knowledge that allowed them to be built must be tightly held and controlled, lest it destroy the social order. Control of such knowledge was important; important in more ways than one. Nikita Ivanovich Slavenitsky, a deti boyar of the Gorchakov clan, would go down in history as the first Russian to fly. More status to the Gorchakov clan. Too many things like that could change the rank of a clan. Things like that flowed out of the Dacha, and the Gorchakov clan was gaining too much status to be allowed to survive.
Fedor Ivanovich was effusive in his praise of the device and the Dacha in general and concerned about leaving such an important project in the hands of such a minor house. He argued intensely that even the flying device wasn’t enough to justify any renewal of the conflict with Poland. And he argued that, with the changing state of things, Poland was less of a threat and the Swede was more of one. “The CPE is potentially the most powerful nation in Europe and we are likely to be thankful for Poland as a buffer state in a few years.” That position didn’t please Patriarch Filaret, but much of the Boyar Duma was more worried about the Swede and the CPE than they were about Poland.
The first radios were now working, though less well than they had hoped, and there was one in the Moscow Kremlin and the test one at the Dacha. Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev wanted one for the Gun Shop and he wanted one for his estates. Actually, it would take more than one radio to reach his estates. They had limited range. More power for the Gorchakov clan, even if that idiot cousin of Pavel’s had done most of the work developing it.
“We can fly,” Evdokia, Czarina of All Russia insisted. Mikhail looked at his wife and sighed. He knew he was going to lose the argument. They were in the best room in the Dacha and it had been an interesting day.
“I know how you feel,” he tried, though in truth he didn’t. He knew his Doshinka had dreams of flight but he never had. Mikhail’s dreams tended to be dark things, best forgotten. “But we have real problems that we must deal with.”
Evdokia, thankfully, didn’t ignore the problems, though Mikhail was fairly sure she wanted to. “I know, Mikhail. But I think that Petr Nickovich made some excellent points about the usefulness of such a flying ship. More importantly, though, is the useful thing he didn’t mention.”
“What useful thing is that?”
“Pride. Pride in being Russian. Pride in being a part of something great. Who is, ah, was . . . will be that up-time general that Mikhail Borisovich Shein is always quoting about eggs?”
Mikhail shook his head, not able to remember the name. He thought the general was French but that was all he remembered.
“Well, that’s not the only quote. The general Nappy-something also said that the moral is to the physical as three to one.” She grinned. “I think to the fiscal, it’s even more. Let us fill the hearts of the people of Russia with pride in who they are. Not with fear of the bureaucrats.”