Four Days On The Danube – Snippet 08

          She tried to figure out what to do. They were now close to the gate that led out of the city toward the airfield. That made it very tempting to just charge ahead, and deal with whatever they ran across. But the shadows were very dark. There was only one street lamp in sight and that was next to a door twenty yards or so down a cross street. Rita couldn’t really see anything now. The motion she’d spotted had stopped. For all she knew, a whole squad of Bavarian soldiers was waiting in ambush.

          Behind her, Mary whispered something. Rita couldn’t make out the words but she was pretty sure Mary had asked one of the other women what was holding everything up — as if any of them knew either!

          For a moment, she considered firing a shot into the shadows. Just to see what happened, basically. It was quite possible that the motion she’d seen had been nothing more than a street mongrel scurrying for cover.

          But that would be insane. The motion could also have been caused by a frightened child.

          “Oh, fuck it,” she muttered. Rita turned and handed her shotgun to Maydene, who’d been following right behind her. “If anybody shoots me, kill him, will you?”

          She turned back around and strode out into the street. In for a penny, in for a pound. She might as well make herself as visible as possible.

          In the same spirit, not knowing what else to say, she shouted: “Hey, you!”

          A second or so later, she got a response..

          “Rita, is that you?”

          That had to be Dina Merrifield. Nobody else she knew could manage to speak Amideutsch with that much of a twang. Dina was from southern West Virginia, where people’s speech had a much more Appalachian accent than they did in Grantville.

          “Oh, thank God!” another woman explained. Rita thought that was probably Bonnie Weaver.

          A woman came into the light cast by the distant street lamp. As she’d guessed, it was Bonnie.

          “Boy, are you the proverbial sight for sore eyes,” Weaver said. “We heard you coming but didn’t know who you were. We ran across a Bavarian patrol a few minutes ago, but we managed to hide from them. At least, I think they were Bavarian even though their uniforms looked like ours. I don’t know who else would be attacking Ingolstadt.”

          They were probably traitors rather than Bavarians, Rita thought. But this was not the time and place to share her suspicions and guesses on that subject.

          “Who else is with you?” she asked Bonnie. “And where’s the Pelican?”

          Bonnie gestured behind her. “It’s at the airfield. Stefano should have it ready to fly by now, even working on his own. All we’ve got to do is get there — but we’ve got a problem. Hank was hurt pretty badly.”

          “Can he walk?”

          “Hell, Rita, he’s not even conscious. We’ve got him in a wheelbarrow we found, but we’re not making much progress any longer. We’re pretty well worn out.”

          Given Siers’ size, Rita wasn’t surprised. “Well, we can spell you on that chore.”

          By now, all of her people had come out into the street. So had Amanda Boyd and — sure enough — Dina Merrifield.

          Böcler came forward. “I will handle the wheelbarrow. I am not doing anything else and I am not much use with firearms.”

          Uncertainly, Rita stared at him. The secretary wasn’t even five and half feet tall. He had pretty wide shoulders for a man his size, but a good part of his bulk looked to be fat rather than muscle.

          Bonnie had obviously been thinking along the same lines. “Ah… Hank Siers is awfully heavy.”

          Böcler shrugged. “So I will be very tired by the time we reach the Pelican. But I will be able to rest then. I am not much use with airships either.”

          The gunfire that Rita could hear had become rather desultory and all of it was now coming from the direction of the artillery barracks. She was pretty sure that her husband’s unit was the only one still putting up a fight. They were probably well-fortified and the Bavarians had stopped trying to take the barracks with a frontal assault. They’d be settling in for a siege and waiting until they could bring up some cannons.

          Suddenly the sounds of intermittent gunshots was replaced by a cacophony. That was the sound of hundreds of guns being fired mixed in with the sound of men shouting. Here and there she could hear the clap of grenades, too.

          She felt a surge of hope. That might be Tom, leading a charge to relieve the siege of the barracks.

          The hope was short-lived, of course. Tom could easily get killed in the next few minutes.

          But that thunderclap of battle also gave them their best opportunity to get out of the city. Any enemy patrols would be drawn toward the sound.

          “Let’s go,” she said. Böcler left immediately, heading toward the shadows where the wheelbarrow was located. Rita turned to Weaver. “Bonnie, stay on top of Johann Heinrich, will you? I think he’s over-estimating his strength and endurance. And you know what men are like in front of a bunch of women.”

          Bonnie grinned. “Yeah, he’ll refuse to admit he can’t handle it until he collapses and we’ve got to carry two of the silly bastards. Neither one of whom would ever grace the covers of GQ or Esquire.

          Rita chuckled. “God, can you remember a world where they published magazines like that? Do you miss it much?”

          “Not the magazines. I sure as hell miss the plumbing, though, any time I venture out of Grantville. Wait’ll you see what passes for toilet facilities on a seventeenth century airship.”


          “You did bring your own toilet paper, I hope. No? Boy, are you in for a treat.”