1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 43

Thorsten grimaced. “I hadn’t thought of that possibility. It seems a bit risky for Maximilian, though.”

“Not if he’s been given assurances that the Swedes won’t intervene,” Jesse said, his tone harsh. “Assurances that he figures come from Oxenstierna, even if nothing’s said openly.”

“But… That would be –”

“Treason? What does Oxenstierna care if he loses one USE province but gets the rest of it? None of which he had before anyway, the way he sees it.”

Engler leaned back in his chair and brought his cup to his mouth. He didn’t drink from it, though, and after a few seconds he set it back down again. He was a little shaken. Thorsten was not a cynical man by nature. Still something of a country rube, was the way he’d once put it to his betrothed, Caroline Platzer. The idea that Sweden’s own chancellor would connive with an open enemy like the duke of Bavaria against his own nation…

Except he wouldn’t see it that way. Jesse was right. Oxenstierna would always look at the world from a Swedish vantage point — and that of Sweden’s aristocracy, to boot. From his perspective, the USE was an ignoble bastard. Not even that, a domestic animal run amok. Was it “treason” for a farmer to use hounds to bring down unruly livestock?

“You didn’t get around to answering my question, Jesse,” said Jeff.

Jesse smiled thinly. “Noticed that, did you? Well, a good part of the reason I’m flying to Prague is to talk to Mike about it. I want to know what he thinks.”

“He’ll tell you the same thing Simpson did,” said Jeff.

The air force colonel’s eyes widened. “You think so? I was kind of figuring…” He sat up very straight, suddenly. “Don’t tell me that you…”

“Different situation, Jesse. The air force and the navy are seen by most people as up-timer services. The army isn’t. Whatever Mike winds up doing won’t automatically have repercussions on Americans. That’s not true for you and Simpson.”

Wood frowned. “That logic seems kind of twisted to me. What the hell, Mike himself is an American.”

Thorsten extended his hand, waggling it back and forth. “Yes and no. American by origin, certainly. But what do they call him now? ‘Prince of Germany,’ no? With everything that’s happened, he’s transcended his origin in the eyes of most people in the Germanies. Certainly most commoners. They almost forget about it — where they are reminded any time they see an airplane or an ironclad. No, I think Colonel Higgins has the right of it here.”

Jesse went back to looking out the window. After a few seconds, he said: “And what about you, Jeff? Leaving aside whatever Mike decides to do.”

Higgins shrugged. “I don’t expect I’ll have to worry about Mike Stearns.” He drained the last of his own cup. “My wife’s in Dresden, Jesse. The time comes I think she’s against the ropes, fuck everything else. I figure my men will come with me, too.”

Thorsten didn’t have any doubt about that. Jesse glanced at him and must have read his posture correctly. “You’re only one regiment,” he pointed out.

Jeff still seemed quite unperturbed. “An oversized regiment that goes by the name of the Hangman. But, yes, you’re right. We’re only one regiment.”

He grinned, suddenly. “Look at it this way, Jesse — by the time Banér manages to get Gretchen against the ropes, what kind of shape do you think he’s going to be in?”

Prague, capital of Bohemia

“Stay out of it, Jesse. Openly, at least. What Jeff said to you was right on the money.”

Mike Stearns leaned over the railing of the great bridge that spanned the Vltava in the center of the city, and idly watched a barge passing below. “What the army does is one thing. The air force and navy, something else. To put it a bit crudely, the army’s German and the other two services are American.”

“Hell, Mike, the navy’s personnel is already almost all German. Once you get past John Chandler Simpson, anyway, and a few others like Eddie Cantrell. So’s the air force, except for the pilots. And even there…” He paused for an instant, to do a quick calculation. “Give it six months and the majority of my pilots will be down-timers too.”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s the technology involved that makes all the difference. Especially with the air force. The navy’s new generation of warships are sailing ships, where it’s the down-timers who really have most of the know-how. So I expect it won’t be long before people think of the navy the way they do the army. But whenever they see one of your planes in the sky, you might as well be skywriting: ‘look! American gadget!'”

The air force officer thought about it for a while. Eventually, albeit reluctantly, he nodded his head. “Okay. I guess. But you said ‘openly.’ That implies something.”

Mike grinned at him. “You can keep me informed of all important troop movements in or around Saxony, can’t you? That doesn’t involve doing anything more than flying reconnaissance, which you do anyway. Got to keep an eye on the Polish border and the Austrians” — he gestured with his chin to the south — “just down there a ways.”

“Sure. What else?”

“Well, it occurs to me that you overfly the fortress at Königstein every time you come down this way.”

Jessed smiled thinly. “Well, not quite. But it’d be easy enough to vary the route. If the powers-that-be whine about it, I’ll make noises about tailwinds and tetchy weather and such forcing me a tad off course. I take it you want regular reports about the state of the garrison there?”