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Chapter 11

"—engines are the big problem," Piazza was saying. "Can't really convert diesel to natural gas, and we've got damned little diesel to begin with. You can run diesel engines on vegetable oil, of course." He chuckled ruefully. "But there isn't that much vegetable oil left in the supermarkets, and it'll take us till next year to start making any in quantity. So in the meantime—"

Mike tuned out the rest. He'd already had a preliminary discussion with Ed and knew what the gist of the proposal was going to be concerning the proper use of the town's diesel equipment.

Same as everything else. Gear down, gear down. Use our modern technology, while it lasts, to build a nineteenth-century industrial base. Still put us way ahead of the game, here in the seventeenth century. Steam engines, steam engines. The railroads are about to make a big comeback in the world.

Mike smiled slightly. Or is "comeback" the right word? Maybe I should say "come back around."

He saw Rebecca was looking at him, and his smile widened. She responded with a shy smile of her own, but looked away almost at once. Her attention was back on Piazza. Riveted to his words, by all appearances. Rebecca's hands were clasped in front of her and resting on the big "conference table" in the center of the room. As usual, she was perched on the edge of her chair.

Mike still counted that smile as progress. It was the first time Rebecca had given him so much as a glance since their conversation on the porch the night before. It was plain as day that she was floundering in a strange sea of new emotions and customs, with a weight of her own traditions that Mike could only guess at. In the world he had come from, romantic liaisons between Jews and gentiles were so common as to hardly cause notice. But the seventeenth century, in many ways, seemed as different as another planet.

Remembering a discussion he had had with Morris Roth, two days earlier, Mike felt his jaws tightening. Morris and Judith had spent hours in conversations with Rebecca, since she and her father had moved into their home. Many of those hours had been spent in Balthazar's room, gathered about his bed. Balthazar himself had been too ill to do much more than listen, but he had participated enough to make clear that Rebecca's view of things was fully shared by her widely traveled father. She was not—definitely not—some ignorant country girl filled with mindless fears and superstitions.

"They're worried about the Inquisition, Mike, more than anything else," Morris had told him. "The Inquisition has agents—Jesuits and Dominicans, mostly—attached to all of the Catholic armies. It seems that two years ago Emperor Ferdinand decreed something called the Edict of Restitution. According to that Edict, all property taken from the Catholic church by Protestants since the Reformation has to be turned back over. And the emperor insists on the forcible conversion of Protestants back to Catholicism. The Inquisition is there to carry out the order."

Mike had been puzzled. "All right. But I still don't understand what they're worried about. I always thought the Inquisition was aimed at heresy. Rebecca and Balthazar aren't heretics, Morris. They're not Christians to begin with."

Morris stared at him for a moment, before wiping his face with a hand. "I forget," he murmured. "We Jews live with our history so closely, we sometimes assume that everyone else knows it as well as we do."

He took away the hand and gave Mike a weary look. "The Office of the Holy Inquisition was set up in 1478 specifically for the purpose of ferreting out Jews, Mike. The Spanish forced all Jews to convert, starting in 1391. Dominican monks led mobs in pogroms on the Jewish quarters. Die or be baptized: those were the choices. A lot of Jews chose baptism. Conversos, they were called. Then the Spanish monarchy, with the Pope's blessing, set up the Inquisition to hunt down the ones who were still privately practicing Judaism. Those people were called marranos. 'Secret Jews.' "

Mike remembered the term. Rebecca had used it in the carriage to refer to herself, the first time he met her. "And then . . . ?"

Morris looked away. "Trial by torture. Auto-da-fé. That's where they gathered the Christians in a town in order to watch the festivities, complete with sermons and parades. All the heretics were brought out from the prisons. Secret Jews, mostly, along with secret Moslems—those were called Moriscoes—and whoever else had come under suspicion."

Roth shook his head. "The whole thing was insane, Mike. One of the reasons Christians in that era—this era, God help us—were so filthy was because it was dangerous to pay too much attention to cleanliness and personal hygiene. Who knows? You might be a secret Jew or a Moslem. Better to remain in an ostentatious state of Christian grime. And when disease comes, blame it on witches or the Jews."

Again, he wiped his face. "The ceremony—the auto-da-fé—would be climaxed by having the heretics burned alive at the stake." Sarcastically: "If you can call someone who's been in the hands of the Inquisition 'alive,' that is. Plenty of them died in the Church's torture chambers. Those—the corpses, I mean—would be burned at the stake so the Inquisition could legally inherit their property."

Seeing Mike's little start of surprise, Morris had chuckled harshly. "Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that? They have some peculiar notions about legal impartiality, in this day and age. The Inquisition is mostly financed by the seized property of the condemned. So you can just imagine how many verdicts of 'innocent' they ever handed down. Didn't take those holy men very long to become rich."

Remembering that conversation, and the anger it had produced in him, Mike forced his mind back to the business at hand. We'll see who burns who, in the new dispensation. Piazza was moving on to a discussion of the refugee problem, but Mike interrupted.

"Excuse me, Ed, but there's something I want to bring up before we get into that." He turned to Ferrara. "Who's the best chemist in town, Greg? You?"

The science teacher shrugged. "Depends what you want, Mike. For some things, me. For others—"

"I want someone who knows how to make napalm."

Ferrara's mouth snapped shut. Opened. Closed.

"Nothing to it," said Melissa. "There's at least three homemade recipes that I know of."

Everyone, Mike included, stared at Melissa. The prim-looking, gray-haired schoolteacher shrugged. "I never made it myself, you understand." Sniff. "Didn't really approve of such tactics, even back then. But one of my college boyfriends was an anarchist. He used to meddle with the stuff all the time. Claimed we'd need it come the revolution."

Stares. James Nichols burst into laughter. "It's nice to know I'm not the only one here with a misspent youth!" He eyed Melissa approvingly. "But—damn—you white kids were ambitious. I never thought past a simple Molotov cocktail."

Melissa frowned. "What's the point of that?" she demanded. "Surely you didn't think—"

"Okay!" exclaimed Mike. "Enough, already!" He chuckled. "Christ, I didn't expect I'd be kicking off a sixties radicals' reunion."

Rebecca's brow was creased with frustration. Plainly enough, the conversation had once again taken a turn she was unable to follow. "Excuse me," she said softly. "What is—napalm?"

Mike's eyes fixed on her. "It's something we'll make to greet the Inquisition when they show up. Them and their goons." He smiled grimly. "Think of it as portable hellfire."

"Oh." Her dark eyes were very round. And then very bright. "Oh."

There came a knock on the door. Without waiting for a response, Darryl McCarthy came barging in. The young miner was carrying his rifle and was practically bouncing like a rubber ball.

"We got visitors, Mike! Scotsmen! Soldiers!" He caught sight of Rebecca and steadied down. "They say they're looking for you, Miss Abrabanel. Well, your father, actually."

Mike rose to his feet so abruptly that his chair tipped over. His right hand clenched reflexively. "Why?" he demanded.

Darryl stared at him, puzzled by the obvious anger in that curt question. But Rebecca immediately interrupted.

"Michael—please." She smiled at him warmly, but shook her head. "It is not what you think. I imagine they—" She turned to Darryl. "Are these men in the employ of the king of Sweden?"

Darryl's head bobbed. "That's what they say, ma'am. Somebody named Gustav."

Melissa's jaw dropped. "Gustav?" The history teacher rose to her feet almost as abruptly as Mike had. "Are you talking about Gustavus Adolphus?"

Darryl was now utterly confused. "Who's that?" He threw up his hands with exasperation. The rifle, still in his right hand, was waving around like a stick. Frank was about to snarl something when Darryl realized what he was doing and apologetically lowered the firearm. He double-checked to make sure the safety was still on. Then, in a much-aggrieved tone, said: "I don't know what this is all about. All I know is that a whole bunch of horsemen—couple dozen, at least—showed up at that farmhouse where we had the shoot-out with those thugs."

He started to elaborate but broke off. "Oh, hell, why ask me? They're in the parking lot."

Now it was Frank's turn to lunge to his feet. "You let them through the perimeter?" he demanded angrily.

Darryl's face, at that moment, almost caused Mike to burst into laughter. The miner looked like a ten-year-old boy, aggrieved beyond measure by the quirks and whimsies of grown-ups. "They're Scots, for Christ's sake! Practically family. Of course we let them in."

Mike started for the door. "Come on, Frank. Let's just go see for ourselves."

The entire emergency committee trooped after him. Frank brought up the rear. As he passed Darryl, he commented sourly: "Your uncle Jake was family, too. Died in prison, didn't he, serving a murder sentence?"

A much aggrieved boy. "Only second-degree," he protested. "He would've been up for parole in a year, if he hadn't gotten knifed."

"Family," muttered Frank. "Wonderful."


They were there, all right. The Scotsmen had apparently arrived in marching order, three abreast, and were maintaining their positions. Twenty-six cavalrymen—there were only two men at the head of the column—still astride their mounts. The horses were skittish, stamping their hooves on the pavement nervously. But they were no more apprehensive than their riders, staring at the hill rising up behind the high school.

Staring at the backhoe and the bulldozer, more precisely. The big pieces of construction equipment were working away, engines roaring, clearing the area for the planned refugee camp. One of the camps, rather. The main refugee center would be built two miles away, next to the power plant, where the shelters could be provided with steam heat exhausted as a byproduct of the plant's operation. The camp on the hill above the high school would be heated from the school's own natural gas supply, with the added advantage that the inhabitants would be able to use the school's cafeteria.

As soon as he saw them, Mike had no doubt the Scotsmen were soldiers. True, their clothing was individually varied. But Rebecca had already explained that soldiers in this day and age rarely wore uniforms. Identification was usually provided on a battlefield by strips of colored cloth used as bandannas or tied around one arm—or even by the simple device of sticking leafy twigs in a hatband.

Everything else about them practically shrieked: soldiers. None of the men were wearing armor, as such. But their buff coats and leather boots were thick enough to protect against sword cuts and even, beyond close range, the heavy but low-velocity bullets of seventeenth century firearms. The boots were well made, and reached up to mid-thigh. The buff coats—armless vests, more often—had skirts which flared out over the hips and reached down just below the tops of the boots. A few of the men were wearing actual helmets, but most of them seemed satisfied with wide-brimmed leather hats. All of the men were armed with swords slung in baldrics, and all of them had at least two huge wheel-lock pistols jammed into saddle holsters. One man that Mike could see had as many as four.

Beyond their gear, the men had a certain grim and dangerous air about them. That was especially true of one of the two men at the head of the column. The man was middle-aged, heavily built, and sported a truly magnificent pair of mustachios. His face, despite its naturally florid color, was utterly expressionless. He, too, was staring at the construction equipment, but without a trace of the awe and trepidation which was so obvious on the other men.

Seeing Mike and his companions emerging from the school, the Scot tore his eyes away from the construction work and muttered something. His companion at the head of the column, a young man wearing somewhat more expensive-looking apparel, jerked his head around. Seeing him full-face, Mike realized that the man was very young. In his early twenties, he estimated. On the short side—even by the standards of the time, which Mike had learned were several inches shorter than the average American. His eyes were green, his hair was red, his mustache and goatee were on the sparse side, his face was pug-nosed, his complexion was pale and—just to make things perfect—he was flamboyantly freckled. He looked like the spitting image of Tom Sawyer. Or, at least, what Mike thought Tom Sawyer ought to look like, after he grew up.

For some peculiar reason, that appearance caused Mike to relax. There was no logic to his reaction, of course. But try as he might, Mike couldn't help but feel a certain warmth toward the young Scotsman.

Melissa verbalized his thoughts. "Good Lord," she chuckled, "I feel like I ought to set him to whitewashing my fence."

The quip caused Mike to smile, and it was with that friendly and cheerful expression on his face that he advanced toward the mounted men. Apparently, he was projecting the right attitude. He could sense the immediate relaxation in the two Scotsmen at the fore and then, moments later, the same easing of tension working its way down the line of horsemen.

As he neared them, the young Scotsman—the officer, Mike assumed; the man next to him had all the earmarks of a veteran noncom—pointed to the construction equipment and demanded: "What is that?"

The young man's head turned, bringing his green eyes onto Darryl's pickup truck. Mike had no doubt that Darryl had led them here behind it, and knew that the truck would have produced the same reaction in these Scotsmen that modern vehicles had on the Abrabanels. Days after arriving in Grantville, Rebecca still tended to stare at every passing motor vehicle.

Mike was impressed by the young Scotsman's ability to connect the construction equipment with the pickup truck. "Yes," he explained loudly, "they're basically the same thing. Motor-driven equipment, we call them. The motors themselves—they're just machines, that's all—are powered by burning naphtha."

The officer's eyes snapped back. "No sorcery then." It was a statement, not a question. Mike saw his shoulders ease a bit. "I had hoped as much," the young redhead added. "Expected it, actually. Your guns are extremely well made, I noticed. A craftsmanly folk. More so than any I've ever encountered in the world." His face flushed a little, highlighting the freckles. Plainly enough, the officer realized how absurd that statement must sound. And just how much of the great wide world have you seen, at your age?

The man at his side, apparently driven by an urge to support his young superior, immediately stated: "Well said, lad. Ne'er seen t'like meself."

Listening to the interchange between the two Scotsmen, Mike found himself grinning. That was probably an undiplomatic thing to do, but he couldn't help it. The Scotsmen's English was perfectly understandable, despite the heavy accents, distinctive inflexions, and frequent use of archaic terms. And why shouldn't they be? There was none of what modern Americans thought of as a typical "Scottish brogue." Instead, the cavalrymen's speech reminded Mike of nothing so much as that of real back-country Appalachian hillbillies.

Just like Darryl said—"family," by God!

"Why don't you all dismount," Mike said. The sentence was phrased like a question but spoken like a command. He pointed to the slender steel columns which held up the concrete awning sheltering the entrance to the school. "You can tie the horses up over there."

The Scotsmen hesitated. Mike waved his hand. "Come on, come on. I imagine you're hungry. We can feed you in the—" Cafeteria, he decided, was probably a meaningless word in this time and place. "In the dining hall," he concluded.

The mention of food did the trick. Within a minute, all of the Scots cavalrymen had dismounted, tied up their horses, and were being led into the school. By the time they got into the large hallway which served the school as its vestibule, a crowd had gathered. High-school students and their teachers, mostly—the Americans had decided to resume classroom instruction—but there were plenty of townsfolk there also. The high school had, willy-nilly, become Grantville's community center in the crisis. It was, by far, the largest and best-equipped facility in the area.

The corridor leading to the classrooms was jammed full of students. Others—boys in basketball trunks and girls from the cheerleading squad—were pouring in from the gymnasium on the other side of the entry hall. The head cheerleader, Julie Sims, was leading that little crowd. She was clutching pom-poms, smiling broadly, and bouncing with excitement. With her pretty face, athletic carriage, full figure—legs bare from mid-thigh to ankles—she was a textbook illustration of the term nubility.

Most of the Scots soldiers ogled Julie and the other cheerleaders, but some had their eye on a few of the older girls in the corridor. Modern American women's clothing, by their standards, bordered on lasciviousness. Rebecca had told Mike that not even prostitutes, in this day and age, would display so much bare flesh in public.

One of the soldiers whispered something to a companion. Mike didn't quite catch the words, but he didn't miss the lewd tone. He was trying to decide how to handle this unexpected little problem, when the mustachioed veteran solved it for him. The man, as still-faced as ever, turned his head and hissed a few choice words of his own. Mike caught the last phrase: "—y'r own cocks f'r sausage. D'ye understand?"

His soldiers stiffened and turned their eyes away from the girls.

Mike smiled. I do believe I'm going to get along with this very tough-looking fellow.

The young officer had been one of those ogling Julie. He must have caught the same words, for he suddenly started and eyed Mike a bit apprehensively. He seemed on the verge of uttering some sort of apology.

Mike kept the smile on his face. "I realize that some of our—ah, customs—must seem a little strange to you." He nodded toward the cheerleading squad. "We're not much given to worrying about appearances. Just the content of morality."

The last words were spoken a bit grimly. Mike's smile faded away. Days ago, Mike had made his basic decision. He would not budge from it.

If the superstitious, flea-bitten, lord-and-priest-ridden bastards don't like it, let 'em choke to death. No surrender, no retreat. This is American soil!

A stray thought made him chuckle. During his three years in college, Mike had been a history student himself. Unlike Melissa, however, with her wide-ranging interests, Mike's attention had been rather narrowly focused on the American Revolution and the first few decades of the republic. The Founding Fathers, especially George Washington, ranked very high on his personal list of heroes.

He took the young Scots officer by the arm and began leading him toward the cafeteria. Up close, he towered over the man. Mike's next words were spoken loudly enough for everyone in the area to hear. "I might mention, as well, that we have certain fundamental political principles. One of those was neatly summed up by one of our early historical leaders, when our young republic was threatened by bandits."

The cafeteria was only a few steps away. Mike paused at the entrance, released the young officer's arm, and turned to address the entire crowd of Scots soldiers and American onlookers.

"Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute!"

The Americans in the hallway burst into cheering applause. Julie Sims immediately began an impromptu routine with her pom-poms. "Give me a D!" Her squad mates and the basketball players grinned and responded with a roaring: "Defense! Defense!" A moment later, the entire crowd had joined the chant.

The Scottish soldiers flinched a little from the ruckus. All except the officer and his veteran subordinate.

The noncom, after glancing around, brought his eyes back to Mike. He didn't seem in the least intimidated by the American's six-inch advantage in height.

"Tha's ae proud boast, man. But can ye sustain it?"

Mike's own grin never wavered. "Care to try us?"

Slowly, the noncom matched the grin with one of his own. Crooked teeth gleamed under mustachioes. "No particularly, now tha' ye ask. Much prefer ae more—ah, friendly—arrangement."

Mike nodded. To the officer: "And you?"

But the officer had missed the exchange entirely. For a few seconds, his attention had been completely riveted on Julie Sims. Some of his fixation, of course, was due to the prettiness of the girl and the shapeliness of her very exposed figure. But most of it was caused by her sheer energy and athleticism. He had never seen a girl so—so exuberant.

By some odd causeway, that cheerleader's glorious vigor brought his mind to focus on the heart of the matter. So much so, in fact, that a born-and-bred Calvinist even lapsed into blasphemy.

"Who in the name of God are you people?"


Over lunch, Mike explained. Here, too, he had already made his decision days ago. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He would not stoop to superstition, or try to calculate the angles. Just tell it as best he could, based on what little the Americans knew themselves.

The conversation lasted for hours. Long before it was over, at Ed Piazza's initiative, miners had brought every one of Grantville's religious leaders to the cafeteria. By motor vehicle, not by foot—this matter qualified as a military affair.

As the town's preachers and priests began arriving, and joined in the discussion, Mike could see the slow easing of tension in the Scotsmen. It all seemed very strange, but—

Christians, then. Protestants, even, the most of them. Odd how they manage to live alongside Catholics and Jews and Moors and free-thinkers without quarrel. Still—

Many of the Scots soldiers, having seen the dogs of war and the carnage of religious strife, made their own mental nods of agreement. A sensible arrangement, when you come down to it. (And, oh, those lovely spirited girls!)

Not sorcery, then. No sign of witchcraft.

Master mechanics and artisans, true. And so what? Scotsmen already had their respect for such. Witchcraft was a thing of hailstorms out of season, and mysterious disease, and milk come sour right out of the cow. This milk was so pure it was like drinking nectar. Do these folk look sickly? Not a crone in the lot. Even the older woman—the schoolteacher—looked marvelous in her health. (And, oh, those lovely spirited girls!)

God's will, then. His doing, not Satan's. The Lord Almighty saw fit to bring these people here. Is that not a sign in itself? Plain as day, even to simple soldiers?

(And, oh, those lovely spirited girls!)


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