1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 36

“Why didn’t anyone get plastic?” Hayley asked.

“Because it wasn’t all that long after Delia Higgins’ dolls hit Vienna and among the notes on the dolls was that they were made of plastic, a material that could be made up-time but not down-time. So everyone knew that plastic couldn’t be made down-time.”

“So it was all about the rumors of what could be done coming out of Grantville back in 1631?” Hayley more said than asked.

“Early 1632, but basically yes. The patent on the Bessemer steel process went for a pretty penny and the patent on the integrated circuit is still sitting there waiting for a buyer. So is the electric motor, by the way.”

That added another job once the word got around. Patent consultant. Actually working on the car didn’t take much time at all. Mostly it was keeping it clean — well, supervising the down-timers who kept it clean. It would be four more months at the earliest before it needed another oil change. And there was only so much time that they could spend on it. When the emperor came out, Ron and Bob had to be on hand just to show that they were doing something. But a car is not a horse. It doesn’t need to be fed every day and its stall doesn’t need to be mucked out. Nor does it need rubdowns every day. Every week is more than sufficient, and up-time the 240Z would have gotten a wax job every six months or so.

Sonny was busy enough working on surveying a railroad and designing steam engines to pull trains along it. But Ron and Bob found that good pay for little work was frustrating. Now they were constantly being called in to look over patents and try to tell the patent holder how to build whatever the patent was for.

Not the big ones like concrete or steam engines, but the little things that the lower-level courtier and the mid-level Them of Vienna had gotten stuck with. Clothespins and clipboards, eggbeaters and egg separators, safety pins and spatulas, that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, the owner of the coking patent wanted Ron to go over the notes on how coking worked to help get him into production.

Sanderlin’s bedroom, Race Track City

“I hate this,” Ron complained to Gayleen in late November. “I was never into books and you know the trouble I had in my senior year of high school.” He waved the papers at her.

Gayleen did know. Ron was good with his hands, but he wasn’t much for book learning. He never had been, which was why she was the one who handled the family finances. Ron had to sell the car to get the money to get his mom a place in one of the villages outside the Ring of Fire. And to sell the car, he had to provide a mechanic. That worked for Ron because he was a mechanic, and was one of the main reasons that they had beat out the other people who were interested in selling their cars.

Uncle Bob had never gotten along with Vera May, Ron’s mom. In fact, Bob didn’t want to stay in the same state as Ron’s mom — an attitude Gayleen couldn’t help but agree with. Nothing really wrong with Ron’s mom, except she ruled whatever house she was in. In Gayleen’s case, there was also the issue that Mother Teresa and Miss America combined wouldn’t be good enough for her little Ronny. She looked over at her husband and tried not to grin. “Sorry, dear, but they are paying pretty good.”

“They’re paying damn good. I just wish Sonny was here to look at this stuff.”

Ron had never told Gayleen outright, but she was pretty sure that Sonny Fortney was some sort of spy the government wanted to put in Vienna. It made her a bit nervous sometimes. “Why?”

“Because he was involved in the coking works that they set up in Saalfeld after the Ring of Fire.”

“It seems like he was involved in everything after the Ring of Fire.”

“He was. He was the go-to guy for the Mechanical Support division after the Ring of Fire. He worked on the natural gas conversion and the coking ovens. Then they moved him over to the surveying corp, and I don’t know what all else. But he knew Treasury Secretary Wendell, Quentin Underwood and Chad Jenkins, that whole banking bunch, before the Ring of Fire. He could have been one of the financial movers and shakers.”

“So why wasn’t he?” Gayleen asked. Ron rarely talked about Sonny Fortney.

“He went to work for Mike Stearns and Frank Jackson,” Ron told her. “There were some rumors when he got put in the mechanical support division. And it turns out, they were true.”

“He’s a spy,” Gayleen said.

“Not exactly. He’s more of a general fixer, I think.” Ron looked over at her and Gayleen was surprised at how serious his expression was. “You remember what Mike said at the town meeting three days after the Ring? The part about starting the American Revolution early?”

Gayleen nodded.

“I think Sonny’s been doing that ever since the Ring of Fire. That’s why I agreed to let him come. ‘Cause I believe in America. Up-time or down-time, it’s still America. It’s still the same truths that Jefferson talked about. And it’s still the same stakes.”

Gayleen nodded again. Though, if she was entirely honest, she really wished that it wasn’t her and her babies risking their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. She had no desire at all to see the inside of an Inquisition torture chamber.

The New Church at Race Track City

“They should be brought before the Inquisition,” Father Lamormaini said, though not, Father Degrassi thought, with any great heat. “They are heretics, after all. And from what I understand, that woman Dana Fortney is something called a New Age spiritualist. They say she practices yoga . . . whatever that is.”

That much was true, Father Degrassi knew. They were sitting in his apartments in the new church that had been built along with the other new buildings at Race Track City. He was in a delicate situation. He was a parish priest as well as a Jesuit, and in his parish the only people who weren’t Catholic were the patricians of Race Track City. “I talked to Dana Fortney and she showed me her books on yoga. It’s an interesting exercise, but hardly the work of the devil. Besides, they are under the protection of the emperor, and he knew that they were not Catholics before they were hired. And I think there is a real possibility of converting some of them.”

“Secret up-timers.” Lamormaini snorted.

“Cardinal Mazzare!” Father Degrassi shot back, even though he appreciated the wit of Lamormaini’s play on “secret Jews.”

“Politics. Mazzare is as much a political cardinal as the Cardinal-Infante. Politics, not faith.”

“We are Jesuits, Father, and Pope Urban has spoken.”

“Not definitively.”

Degrassi wasn’t sure that Father Lamormaini was wrong, but he wasn’t willing to push things. The truth was that the Ring of Fire had challenged his faith in way that he never would have expected, and he didn’t know how to handle it. He was a cautious man by nature and his focus was on scholarship, so he was not going to be rushed into any position. As well, he rather liked Dana Fortney and was considering taking her yoga classes.