1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 15


July 1636

Bernie looked down at the mirrored surface of the theodolite. It was made in the Dacha and had come on the first of the steamboats to arrive. It didn’t look all that much like an up-time theodolite, but it worked well. Bernie adjusted a knob till the poles became a single pole and looked at the number. Then he waved to the trapper they had recruited to hold the poles for them.

Bernie and Filip Pavlovich were outside the Ufa kremlin, surveying to find the right place to put the dirigible hangar.

“Steamboat coming!”

Bernie and Filip turned as one and looked upriver to see the smoke and steam.

They made their way down toward the docks and were in time to see the steam barge tying up. “Look! That’s Ivan Borisovich,” Filip said.

They trotted the rest of the way to the docks. “Are any more coming?” Bernie shouted.

“I don’t know.” Ivan Borisovich shook his head. “Things were still very confused when we left the Dacha and we were attacked by a steamboat out of Murom. Even if others left, I don’t know if they will make it.”

“Did you lose anyone?” Filip shouted.

“No. We had a couple of wounded, but Vitaly Alexeev managed to save them.”

Ufa was crowded, but that was because Ufa was small. There had been steamboats from Murom following their two and, at Olga’s insistence, most of them had been sent back to the Volga and south to buy supplies. But they had left their passengers, craftsmen and workers from the factories in Murom. Not all of the people from Murom, not even a very large percentage. But around five hundred, when you included families. There had also been individuals and small groups walking into Ufa, but even with the boats from Murom it had been a trickle, not a flood, so this wasn’t good news. They needed workers to build the new Ufa and they, more importantly, need skilled workers and the sort of experts that only existed in the Dacha. Men and women who knew how to make and use the modern equipment. They had only managed to get two Fresno scrapers built.

“I’m surprised that Sheremetev has managed to get a force in place to try and stop you at Murom,” Bernie said as Ivan Borisovich came down the gangplank with several other men and women from the Dacha. Most of them were Natasha’s former serfs, but there were a few professionals like Vitaly Alexeev, as well.

“The service nobility were not happy with Czar Mikhail’s emancipation of the serfs,” Vitaly Alexeev said.

“What about the serfs?” Filip asked.

“We didn’t see much, but it’s only been a couple of weeks since the radio messages went out,” Ivan Borisovich said. “And for most of that time we were on the river, so I don’t know what’s happening away from that. Besides, I’m not sure it was Sheremetev’s people, at least not exactly. They’re siding with him, but I think they were acting on their own. I don’t know. Maybe they called him on the radio for instructions or maybe he called them. But Murom was pretty much in ashes as we went by. From the radio telegraph traffic we picked up, we figure that there was heavy rioting after you guys left.

“We heard about the riots from the people who followed us,” Bernie said.

“I’m guessing the attack on us was at least partly in response to that. Bor and Nizhny Novgorod paid us no attention. Same with Kazan. We didn’t stop and they didn’t try to stop us.”

“That could be just because they didn’t know where we were from,” Vitaly Alexeev said. “Or because the river was pretty wide around there.”

“So you don’t know what’s going on?”

“Not really. Where is the dirigible?” Ivan Borisovich asked.

“Scouting east right now.” Bernie waved them up the docks. “Until we get a hangar built, it’s going to be safer in operation than on the ground. So Nick is looking for a valley that is deep enough to be out of the wind. Then they are going to try and put a hangar there. Mikhail wants to put a hangar here, but that is at least partly because he wants to build more dirigibles.”

“Can you afford that?” Ivan asked as they approached the end of the docks. Stevedores were unloading the barge from the Dacha. Anya had shown up and waved at them as she passed with Olga Petrovichna in her wake. Anya would get the craftspeople from the dacha situated.

“No. But you can tell him that,” Bernie said.


“I know we can’t afford it,” Mikhail said to Stanislav Ivanovich. “But we can afford to make a start on it, and we will eventually be able to pay for it.” Then the czar of Russia smiled. It was a friendly, open smile, not nervous or concerned. “Either that or we’ll all be dead. And they can’t collect from a bunch of corpses.”

Stanislav looked at Czar Mikhail and wondered what had happened to the famously timid czar. He wondered if perhaps Bernie Zeppi had truly cast a spell on him. Everyone agreed that the up-timer from the magical city of Grantville was a puissant mage or a witch from the magical town. And who, seeing the mighty dirigible Czarina Evdokia, could doubt the magic? Or, having met the real Czarina Evdokia, doubt that the magic had an effect on people? The czarina seemed to embody the power and majesty of the dirigible in her person. Frankly, she scared him. It never occurred to Stanislav even to consider the possibility that the czar and czarina were the way they were because everything they had was already in the pot and any future risks were meaningless. It didn’t matter, though. Stanislav was not going to argue with either of them. “Whatever you say, Czar Mikhail.”

The czar pointed to a place on the sand table that would be about a mile from the Ufa kremlin. “We will put it there, and dig a channel up to the entrance so that we can use the steamboats for transshipment.”

It was insane. These were projects that would take thousands of people supported by tens of thousands. More even. Hundreds of thousands. Ufa’s entire population before the dirigible arrived was eleven hundred forty-three people. Half of them were farmers who worked in nearby fields. There were maybe another thousand hunters or trappers who spent a few weeks a year here, selling their furs and drinking the proceeds. The steamboats had added six hundred more people and Olga wasn’t sure how they were going to find the food for even that many extra mouths.

They had set up a radio here in Ufa, but it wasn’t close enough to contact any place but a riverboat that had a radio and was pretty close. Stanislav wondered how the rest of the world was responding to this.