The problem was that the State of Thuringia-Franconia—at least, the area around Grantville—simply didn’t have much any longer, in the way of military forces. In the months after the Croat raid on Grantville and its high school, more than two years earlier, the town had fairly bristled for a while with cavalry patrols, freshly-built fortifications, sentinel outpost, the works. But two years was a long time in the war conditions of Europe. Soon enough, it became obvious that there was no immediate military threat to Grantville any longer. The key development had been Wallenstein switching sides in 1633. The same man who’d launched the Croat raid was now allied with the USE—and, given the number of Americans living in Prague today, some of them very closely connected to the new king, there was simply no way Wallenstein could organize and launch a secret attack even if he wanted to.

            So that ended the threat from Bohemia, which was the most pressing one. Who else could launch a raid on Grantville? The Austrians would have to fight their way through Bohemia first—and Wallenstein had beaten their army at the second battle of the White Mountain. The Bavarians were in no position to do anything more than try to hold their ground. That had been obvious even before Gustav Adolf’s general Banér seized their fortress of Ingolstadt, which left the Bavarians without a bridgehead north of the Danube.

            The Saxons were the only real possibility, and that was negligible. John George, the Elector, had a full scale invasion coming and he knew it perfectly well. He was concentrating entirely on readying Saxony’s defenses, not wasting energy on raids which would simply chew up his army. Holk’s mercenary forces were really the only ones he had available for something like that, anyway. Holk would have to fight his way through sizeable forces—USE regulars, too—stationed in Halle, in order to reach Grantville or any of the towns in the Thuringian basin. Nobody thought he could manage that, and if he even tried he’d leave Saxony’s frontier with Bohemia open to an attack by Wallenstein. There was no way the Elector of Saxony would countenance such a thing. He’d hired Holk and his army in the first place, despite their unsavory reputation, in order to help protect his southern flank.

            Who else? A few hysterics shrieked about the “French menace,” pointing with alarm to Turenne’s daring raid on the Wietze oil fields during the Baltic war, but that was downright laughable. Given the political tensions in France after the war, there was no way Richelieu was going to send his best general haring off on a long-distance raid. Even if he did, so what? Only somebody who was geographically-challenged and completely ignorant of logistics could possibly think that a raid from France to Grantville was anything like a raid into Brunswick. That Turenne was an exceptionally gifted military commander had been proven in this universe, as well as being attested to by the historical records of another. That did not make him a magician, who could fight his way through the entire USE. It was three hundred miles from the French frontier to Grantville, even as the crow flies. At least half again that far, the way an army would have to travel.

            No, aside from the mundane and everyday risks of living in a boom town, Grantville was about as safe as any place in Europe, these days. So, beginning in the fall of 1633, the military forces which had once protected it carefully had been almost completely drained away. They were needed elsewhere. The regular cavalry patrols were a thing of the past, the sentinel posts had been abandoned completely, and the outlying fortresses had no more than a handful of men detached from the small garrisons maintained in the towns of the basin—who were really there to keep order and double as a police force, more than serve as an actual military defense.

            “We haven’t got a pot to piss in, is what it amounts to,” he said.

            “Not for something like this, Mr. President,” agreed the police chief.

            Carol looked fierce. “If those bastards so much as hurt Noelle and Eddie, I don’t care what Mike says. I’m for firing up the war against Austria. Or whoever it is.”

             There’d be a lot of that sentiment, Ed knew, if Noelle and Eddie came to harm. Granted, assuming Austria was behind the affair, most people would hold a grudge about the mass defection in any event. But most of the grudge would be aimed at the defectors themselves, not the Austrians. It wouldn’t be the sort of thing that would set off any real war fever. Noelle and Eddie getting killed or badly injured would be a different kettle of fish altogether.

            Ed contemplated the problem, for a few seconds. As a practical proposition, of course, launching any sort of immediate campaign against Austria was a non-starter. But “immediate” meant next year. The year after that…

            He shook his head slightly. That was pointless speculation, right now. They still didn’t even know what was really happening.

            “I guess that’s it then, for the moment.” He straightened up in his chair. “Unless Denise Beasley—there’s a real pip, for you—shows up with some more information.”

            Press Richards grinned. “Don’t think that’s too likely. I got no idea what she’s up to now. The last I saw of her she was racing off on her bike, giving me and Knefler the finger. Most of her spleen wasn’t really aimed at me, since Denise knows I haven’t got the resources to do what she wanted. But she probably has me lumped in with ‘the fathead’ for the time being.”

            Carol’s mouth made a little O. “Did she really call Captain Knefler a ‘fathead’? I mean, to his face?”

            “Oh, yeah.” Solemnly, Press shook his head. “Wasn’t all she called him, I’m deeply sorry to report. Girl’s got a real potty mouth, when she cuts it loose. She also called him a fuckwad and an asshole and a motherfucking moron.”

             “She’s not even sixteen!”

            “She’s Buster’s kid,” Ed grunted. “That’s got to add a decade or so, at least in the lack-of-respect-for-your-betters department. Thank God I’m no longer the high school principal. She’s not my headache, these days.”

            Richards and Unruh both looked at him.

            “Well, she isn’t,” Ed insisted. Hoping it was true.