1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 47
“So what else is on the list of impossible demands this week?” Brandy asked.
“Bernie, or rather ‘one of the brain cases,’ wants a computer. The patriarch wants proof of the dangers of lead poisoning and an alternative makeup, because certain women in Moscow are having fits. Also, tons of antibiotics. Apparently they are having trouble with the instructions already sent.”
“That’s not surprising. Chloramphenicol is doable, but not easy.” Brandy said.
Vladimir nodded. “I have one here from the Polish Section demanding a generator ‘if such things really exist.’ We sent one to Bernie a while back; that must be where they heard about it.”
“According to Natasha, they have a group at the Dacha who are hand-making generators and batteries. Why doesn’t the Polish Section get one from them?”
“Ah, that explains it.” Vladimir grinned. “The Polish Section wants a generator all right, but they don’t want to go through the Grantville Section or the Dacha to get it. Russian politics. I’ll direct them to the Dacha. Here’s one . . . they want the precise location of all gold mines in Russia. I already told them that the best we’ve found is general areas. So, make unreasonable demands of me, Brandy. I’m getting used to it.”
“Hmmm.” Brandy considered. “Hmmm. No one has ever suggested that to me before, I don’t think. I’ll hold the unreasonable demand for now and use it when it’s really inconvenient. For now, how about a reasonable demand? Let’s take off early? I want you to tell me about Moscow.”
Vladimir shrugged. “Why not? The demands will still be here tomorrow.”
It was three nights after the car had left for Russia that Vladimir made up his mind. He would ask for permission to marry the girl from the future. He pulled out a pen and began the two letters. One to Natasha informing her that he would be seeking Brandy’s hand and asking for her help in persuading the czar. One to the czar asking his permission to marry a foreigner. He would wait to ask Brandy until he had permission because he didn’t know what he would do if the permission was not forthcoming.
Having written those letters, Vladimir began to write this week’s report to the Embassy Bureau, attention Grantville Section. First he wrote about Hans Richter and the political implications that were already bouncing around central Germany. That was an event that would change the politics of Europe. He included some of the newspaper coverage and turned to the next item.
The steam engines are on order. The younger Herr Schmidt may prove even more suited to the new future that sits before us all than his father. I include fairly extensive notes on the tour of his plant. Herr Adolf Schmidt charged two thousand American dollars for that tour. He said he understands that he can’t prevent others from profiting from his work, but he can at least get them to pay for the privilege if he doesn’t charge too much. It would have cost more to steal the information, so I guess in this case he didn’t charge too much. I think we got our money’s worth, anyway.
In spite of your efforts in Murom, I don’t think the infrastructure is in place to support a steam engine factory in Russia like the one in Magdeburg. Herr Schmidt’s factory doesn’t exist on its own, but is a part of an industrial community. Herr Schmidt gets parts from three different foundries and is looking for more. The machines he uses to finish those parts were produced by other suppliers, mostly from near Grantville. But he is looking into having a tube bender made in Magdeburg. I mention this to emphasize again that what we need more than a steam engine shop or a gun shop — or any other shop — is that community of industry. A place where the parts for machines may be bought and new machines built, not out of raw iron ore but out of parts that are already on a shelf in another shop.
We do need steam engines, yes. Besides the tour and the order for two twelve- and four twenty-horsepower steam engines and the accompanying boilers and condensers, I have included the booklet that Schmidt Steam sells with instructions on how to make the less efficient, but easier to produce, low-pressure steam engines, which it seems every other blacksmith or carpenter in Germany is building. When combined with my notes on the tour it should give our craftsmen a better steam engine.
Rudlinus Nussbaum, who took me through the factory explained it this way. There are two extreme forms of steam engine. The ones like they make in the factory are high-pressure steam engines which use what he calls super-heated steam to produce pressures of hundreds of pounds per square inch. That’s still lower than the pressures and heat in an internal combustion engine, but it’s very hot and very high pressure. Rudy, as he asked that I call him, said that a piston escaping from a high-pressure steam engine would go right through me and the door behind me. He then assured me that I was perfectly safe. Grinning like an idiot the whole time.
In any case, high-pressure steam engines require good quality steel and fairly tight tolerances. We have craftsmen that could handle the tolerances, but it would take a long time to build each cylinder.
However, there are also the low-pressure steam engines I sent you the booklet about. I am enclosing a booklet printed by Schmidt Steam. In general, a low-pressure steam engine uses steam that is not that much above boiling and works at pressures as low as a few pounds per square inch. Rudy said, “To get useful work out of that weak a head of steam, they use large cylinders and large pistons. A piston head with a diameter of one foot has a surface of 113 square inches. At a steam pressure of ten pounds per square inch, that comes to a stroke force of 1130 pounds or half a ton. Say half of that is lost to friction and other factors . . . that’s still 565 pounds of work. Just over a horsepower, assuming a foot-long cylinder and a cycle time of a couple of seconds. Actually, with a one-foot diameter, four-foot cylinder and a decent flywheel, at ten psi you should get about two and half horse power once it gets going.”
I take Rudy at his word and I believe you should as well. What this means to us is that a wooden cylinder three feet long and a foot across — essentially a barrel with the proper attachments — can provide the work of three or even four steppe ponies. According to the booklet and the experiments they did at the Smith Steam engine factory: The low-pressure steam engine can be made mostly of wood and leather with iron reinforcements.” That is not true, as I understand it, of the boiler and the pipes. For one thing the highest pressure is always in the boiler not the engine, since the engine is releasing that pressure to get work. The best boiler is steel tubing. But making steel tubing would be prohibitively expensive. We will probably be forced to use a steel pot or even an iron pot and copper tubing to take the steam from the pot to the engine.
“What’s taking so long with the car?” Bernie asked. “We asked for it six months ago.”
Anya hid a grimace. Bernie was increasingly upset about the delay in sending the car.
“According to his last letter, Vladimir says that he’s trying to find an up-timer to come with it,” Natasha said. “There are also other requests he has to deal with. To use the up-timerism, he wrote he has more on his plate than just your car. The politics of the CPE are increasingly fractious. The Embassy Bureau is concerned that the League of Ostend will defeat the CPE and relieve the pressure that is the only thing keeping Poland from invading us. So, more of his time and energy is being used acquiring political information, and he can’t take the time to find shipping for your car, Bernie.”
“I know that, but we need that engine as an example. The steam engine project is hitting snags all over the place. And I’m pretty sure it’s the tolerances.”
“How tightly the piston sits in the cylinder,” Bernie explained, which wasn’t a particularly good explanation, as far as Anya was concerned.
“Oh, man.” Bernie sounded worried. “Why him?”
Natasha looked up from her latest letter from Brandy Bates and watched Bernie for a moment. His beard had grown in rather nicely, she thought. His clothing, though, was a disaster and worse, he was influencing the staff at the Dacha and even people in Moscow.
“Cass Lowry.” Bernie waved the letter at her. “He used to be a friend of mine when we played football together. I thought he was so cool and he is clever. He was always coming up with stunts to pull. The thing is . . .” Bernie paused and looked at Natasha, then went on. “He always had . . . I guess you’d call it a sense of entitlement. His stunts usually had a nasty edge to them, getting back at someone who had dissed him. Ah . . . shown a lack of respect for him. He was going to go to college on a football scholarship. Studying was a waste of time.
“I was the same way, I guess. Everything that happened to us was someone else’s fault. I was right with him all through high school. Then, after his football scholarship fell through, Cass blamed me for keeping him from studying.” Bernie looked over at Natasha and gave a shrug. “There may have been some truth to it but other guys on the team did study and went on to college. Somewhere in there, I got over myself and started to grow up. But from the letter, it doesn’t sound like Cass ever did. Now he’s blaming everything on the down-timers and Mike Stearns.” Bernie waved the letter. “That’s what this letter comes down to. I hope no one ever reads this, Natasha. Because it’s pretty rude.”
Natasha knew that quite well. It took some effort to control her expression. Cass Lowry’s comments about “krauts,” “russkies” and “I guess you’re living in the armpit of the universe” had not gone unnoticed. Not in the least. “Brandy says it is because he was the only person who knew cars well enough who was willing to make the trip. Vladimir wanted, very much, to have someone who knew cars travel with your ‘Precious.'”
Natasha looked at Brandy’s letter again. “Brandy says ‘tell Bernie that Cass is traveling with Precious because Cass is the only guy we could find who wasn’t doing something else.'”
Bernie’s face was a study. Part outrage, part pout. “The car is not named Precious. Are you sure she didn’t say ‘your precious car’ or something?”
Natasha shook her head. “No. It even has the capital P. I assumed it was the name for it. At any rate, your Cass will be arriving in a month or so. We should probably arrange for you to meet him. He, according to Brandy, wants to visit us for a while. And you never know, he might help.”
Bernie slumped into a chair. “I doubt it. Don’t get me wrong. Cass is smart, smarter than me, I always thought. It’s just . . . I don’t know . . . he has a knack for screwing things up. You’re probably not going to care for him one little bit. Neither will Boris or Filip.” Bernie shook his head in disgust. “Why did Brandy have to send him?”
Brandy had not sent him, Vladimir had. He had been fully aware of Cass’ drawbacks and had stressed the need to put up with them while he was milked for information, especially on weapons and tactics used by the up-timers. “Mr. Lowry,” Vladimir had written, “is not a person we would want in our home. But he does have knowledge that could be useful to Russia. Try to keep anyone from killing him for the insults he will surely give.” Natasha had wondered if Bernie’s view would agree with Vladimir’s. While there were subtle differences, for the most part it did.