1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 40
Vladimir had just opened the packet from Moscow when Gregorii knocked on the door. He looked at Gregorii, then looked at the clock and stifled a curse. Time had gotten away from him again. Brandy Bates and her mother, Donna, had agreed to come to dinner tonight. It would be a quiet dinner, just the three of them. “All right, Gregorii, show them in.”
One of the letters in the packet caught his eye. Surely it must be important. As all of them were — to their originators, at any rate. Vladimir was beginning to dread the packets, in truth. There was yet another over-large stack of letters in this packet. Vladimir knew they would contain more requests, demands, and commands, depending on who the writer was. And probably half of the questions would have already been answered.
The turnaround time for communications was over two months. The message packets came every week or so. Often he got requests for clarification of some point, did the research and sent an answer. Then a week or two later he got another message saying “never mind, we figured it out.” They had obviously solved the problem before he ever got the request. Sometimes their solutions matched the answer he had sent and sometimes not.
Sometimes their solutions were better than the answer he had sent. That meant opportunities Vladimir could take advantage of here in Grantville. There were, as of his last report, something like a hundred of the brightest minds in Russia living in his dacha a few miles outside of Moscow. This wasn’t anywhere near the number of bright minds that were in Grantville by now, but still constituted a fairly robust R&D facility, to use an American term. Sometimes they came up with solutions that the up-timers wouldn’t because the up-timers “knew” it didn’t work that way.
Vladimir averaged sending one message packet a week back to Moscow. Usually it would include the most recently copied up-timer books and what answers he had been able to get for the lists of questions that came in every packet.
Gregorii announced Brandy and Donna moments after he broke open the impressive looking letter. As they were shown in, he read the first paragraph. “Will you look at this!” Vladimir stood and stomped around the room. “Just look at it!” The letter had the imperial seals as well as those of the Russian Orthodox Church. It was from Filaret, the patriarch of the church. Who also happened to be the father of the czar.
“Well, I could.” Brandy shrugged. “But it wouldn’t do much good since I can’t read your language. Not enough, at least. Suppose you just tell me what it says.”
Vladimir stopped his pacing and looked startled for a moment. “Ah . . . yes. I forget. You’ve learned so much about me and my country that I feel you must know the language better by now. Silly of me, I suppose. Come, ladies, come. Sit down, please. Will you have a glass of wine?”
Brandy smiled. “I do the same thing. It always surprises me when you need a word translated these days. Anyway, what does that very impressive looking letter say? It must be important, considering all the seals and ribbons. And yes, please. After this day, I could use a glass. I could use several, for that matter.”
“Tell me, Donna Ivanovna, was the government in your America as impossible to please as mine is?” Vladimir’s face was still a bit flushed with irritation. “The patriarch, of all people, sends me a request to have the entire library sent to Moscow. Impossible, totally impossible. Have they no idea of the size of such a project? Have they any idea of the expense?
“Oh, and you will love this part.” Vladimir waved the paper again. “At the same time, I am to prevent the sale of up-timer books to other nations. Especially Poland and nations ruled by the Habsburgs. And I am to prevent the books from falling into the hands of the Roman church. The group that’s reprinting the Americana has three priests and an agent of a Polish magnate in it! Let me read you this. It is impossible.”
“To Knaiz Vladimir Petrovich Gorchakov
It is most necessary that the knowledge of the up-timers be limited to those of the true faith or at the very least provided to those of us of the Orthodox Church first. This must happen before it becomes available to those influenced by Rome. You must acquire the library, especially the National Library, mentioned in your dispatches and send it to the Church as soon as possible.
You are to be congratulated on sending so many books so rapidly. As you know, I am an expert on books and the time it takes to make copies. It is clear that you are somehow acquiring originals of the books you have sent because so many could not have been copied so quickly.
The spiritual tracts and philosophical knowledge gained by the up-timers must especially be sent to the church first. This is so that they may be reviewed before they are released. We wish to avoid partial understanding and crisis of faith among the followers of the true faith.
Further, it is essential that advances in techniques, new techniques and the knowledge of science be limited to nations that share in our beliefs. Some Protestant nations, particularly Sweden, may be allowed this knowledge but it must be kept from Poland and the Habsburgs. Especially, knowledge of medicines and healing must be controlled, lest the unscrupulous Roman clergy use it to bolster faith in their misinterpretation of God’s word.
“Can you believe it?” Vladimir asked.
Mrs. Bates very nearly snorted wine up her nose.
Brandy was looking both concerned and confused. “He knows better, doesn’t he?”
Vladimir was still stalking around the room and waving his arms in the air, but Brandy’s question brought him up short. The answer was; of course, the patriarch knew that the demands were beyond impossible, well into the range of ridiculous. So what would make him write such a set of demands? It almost had to be that someone else was reading them or that they were being put on the record to demonstrate that the patriarch had instructed Vladimir thus and if Vladimir had failed to act on his instructions then it wasn’t the patriarch’s fault.”
But now wasn’t the time to go into all that. Vladimir slumped into a chair and poured his own glass of wine. “Every week I send a report. And every week I get more and more impossible requests. And I have no doubt that there are at least half a dozen more in this packet alone.” A piece of paper fell out of it.
“Well, if it isn’t going to violate national security or something, why don’t you pull them out and read them to us?” Brandy suggested. “That way you can blow off steam before you try to answer them.”
Vladimir dug into the packet of letters and grinned mischievously. “Oh, you’re going to enjoy this, Brandy. Here. You have a letter from Bernie.” He handed her the letter.
After she took it, he picked up another missive. He was glad to see it had fewer ribbons and seals.
“Oh, no.” Brandy stared at the letter like it might be a snake. “Two months ago it was ‘send me an egg beater.’ Last month it was ‘send me a generator.’ And we’ve done it, every time. What do you suppose Bernie wants now? I’m almost afraid to read it.” Brandy glared at the letter, suspicion all over her face.
Mrs. Bates stifled another snort at the look she wore. “Come on, Brandy! At least it will be in English. Read it to us.”
“Okay, Mom.” Brandy gingerly opened the letter. “I’ll read it. But hang on to your hat. There’s just no telling, there really isn’t”
“You know,” Brandy muttered, “he could use my name, just to freaking be polite.” She continued,
“Well, if Dad really wants the old car out of the way how about we do this? I’m sending you an authorization to take money out of my savings account. Will you give Dad some money for me? Tell him it’s a storage fee, or something. Anything to keep him from getting rid of the car. Then, if you could have Vladimir get someone to pull the engine out of it for me, I’d really appreciate it. I’m enclosing a bill of sale from me to you, just in case.
The body doesn’t really matter that much, but I want the engine and the transmission. Actually, I’d like to have all of it, but there’s probably no way to ship it, not in one piece. Ask Vladimir, will you? I’d take it all if I could get it.
I’ve asked Natasha to ask Boris (I love that . . . Boris and Natasha, the Russian spies) to authorize paying for the transport back here. If worse comes to worse, we’ll tear the whole thing apart and try to build our own version. God, I miss the car, I really do.
“Oh, Lord.” Mrs. Bates giggled. “Bernie wants his car. In Russia. In the year 1633. That makes a lot of sense.”
Brandy, Vladimir and Mrs. Bates laughed. “I can’t imagine what he’ll do with it.” Brandy shook her head. “What do you think, Vladimir? Should you send Bernie his car?”
Vladimir slumped farther into his chair but smiled. “I told you there would be more impossible demands, didn’t I? As to whether or not we should send the car, yes, we should. And also anything else that might help. I sent them information on the steam engines you built for your power plant months ago. They can’t build them. Natasha tried to have them built in Murom and they failed completely. But Russia needs some kind of motive force even more than Germany does.”
Brandy grinned. “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer. As it happens, there’s a new booklet out on making steam pumps. We can send them that. It might help. So what’s that other thing you got in that letter?”
Vladimir waved a piece of paper. “Money. Money like yours, in fact.” He passed it to Brandy, who looked at it and passed it on to her mother.
“Colorful,” Mrs. Bates said.
It was. About four by eight inches, printed in red, yellow and blue. “Who’s this?”
“Czar Mikhail.” Vladimir pointed at the images. “A cross, a proper cross, on the other end.”
Mrs. Bates flipped the paper over. “And that would be the palace, I suppose? Or a government building of some sort?”
“The Kremlin.” Vladimir took the bill back.
“And what does the writing say?” Mrs. Bates looked at him curiously.
“This bill is legal tender for all debts, by order of the czar, with the support of the Boyar Duma and the Zminski Sobor. One ruble.”
“Bernie or you, Vladimir? I mean, this isn’t the sort of thing that Bernie would come up with.” Brandy had known Bernie Zeppi for years. This wasn’t his sort of thing.
“Me, mostly. I started sending information about your banking system before Bernie left. On the other hand, I’ll wager any amount you name that members of the Zminski Sobor, that’s the Assembly of the Land, consulted with Bernie before they signed off on it.”