Chapter 13. The Map



High Street Mansion, Seat of Government for the State of Thuringia-Franconia

President’s Office

Grantville, State of Thuringia-Franconia


            “You should fire that whole garrison at Saalfeld,” Noelle said testily. “For sure, get rid of that useless commander. I swear to you, Ed, if they’d been willing to get off their butts as soon as we arrived, I might have still caught the bastards.”

            “Not likely, Noelle. By then, they’d have been well into Bohemia—and there’s the tiny little problem that while our relations with Wallenstein are good, they aren’t so good that he’d take kindly to us sending a military unit into his territory without his permission. And getting that permission would have taken at least another week.”

            He shrugged. “Besides, it wouldn’t do any good. The SoTF doesn’t have the kind of money it would take to throw top wages at mercenary units to make sure we get good ones for mere garrison duty far from the war zones. If we fired Captain Stamm and his company, anyone we got to replace them wouldn’t be any better in the raring-to-go department, and would probably be a lot worse in what matters, which is doing a decent job of keeping the peace locally without gouging the residents more than they think is reasonable.”

            He came out of his relaxed slouch and folded his hands on the desk. “Relax, will you? I know you’re like a bulldog when you set your teeth into something, but this is really not worth the amount of sweat you’re putting into it. Look, you did your best, and the baddies got away. It happens. That said, it was not the crime of the century, the only people who got killed were baddies themselves—I almost wish I’d seen that; I really detested Jay Barlow—and the military impact of the tech transfer will be minor in the short run and probably not even that significant in the long run.”

            Noelle eyed him skeptically. “I notice you didn’t say anything about the political impact.”

            Ed shrugged again. “So the Crown Royalists are trying to make hay out of it. Big deal. That’s the nature of politics, Noelle. You win some, you lose some, and when you do lose the other guy points with alarm and swears to the electorate that the sky is falling. I’ve talked to Mike about it, and I can assure you he’s not losing any sleep over the affair. Neither am I. Neither should you.”

            Noelle sighed. “I hate giving up on something I started.”

            After a moment, she managed a smile. “At least Eddie’s arm looks to be healing okay. The doctor told him it should be as good as new in a few more weeks. So I guess—I feel bad about it, even if it wasn’t my fault—that the only real casualty on our side is that Lannie and Keenan are out of a job.”

            “No, they aren’t. Didn’t you hear? Kay Kelly had a conniption, of course, and demanded that her husband fire the two bums. I guess she was even making noises about filing criminal charges. But you know Bob. Hell of a nice guy, even if it does take him a month to screw in a lightbulb because he’s got to redesign it to his satisfaction first. So he just plain refused, on the grounds that they meant well. And don’t let anybody tell you that he doesn’t wear the pants in that family, even if Kay could teach graduate courses in henpecking.”

            “That she could,” said Noelle, grimacing. “I’ll make it a point—even more than usual—to steer clear of her over the next few weeks.”

            “Unless you go to Magdeburg, you won’t have to,” Ed said. “She left yesterday, once she realized Bob wasn’t going to budge.”

            “What? She’s going to try to get the federal government to press charges?”

            “Oh, hell no.” Ed shook his head, smiling. “I don’t like the woman, but nobody ever said she let any moss grow. She went up to Magdeburg to lobby the government to put in an order for the Dauntless line. Now that it’s been field-tested and proved it could carry out a successful bomb run. Not the plane’s fault the dummies piloting it bombed the wrong guys, after all.”

            “You’re kidding!”

            “Nope. One of her arguing points—you know how quick she is to level accusations of favoritism—is that that’s more than Mike Stearns, playing his usual favorites game, ever asked Hal and Jesse to prove with their planes. Which he commissioned on nothing better than a prayer and a promise.”

            Noelle couldn’t herself from laughing. “She’s got brass, I’ll say that for her.”

            The laughter finally broke her sour mood. She gathered up her stuff and rose. “Well, okay. I guess you’re right. And what I do know is that you’re busy. So I’ll get out of your hair. Besides, I’d better see if I can put in a word for Denise before her parents skin her alive.”