Baen Books by eric flint ring of Fire series




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GRANTVILLE GAZETTE VEric Flint

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2009 by Eric Flint

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

A Baen Books Original

Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403
Riverdale, NY 10471
www.baen.com

ISBN: 978-1-4391-3279-1

Cover art by Tom Kidd

First printing, August 2009

Distributed by Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Grantville gazette V : sequels to 1632 / edited and created by Eric Flint.
p. cm.
ISBN 978-1-4391-3279-1
1. Fantasy fiction, American. 2. Seventeenth century—Fiction.
3. Alternative histories (Fiction), American. 4. Science fiction, American. I. Flint, Eric. II. Title: Grantville gazette 5.

PS648.F3G755 2009
813'.54—dc22
2009011733

Pages by Joy Freeman (www.pagesbyjoy.com)
Printed in the United States of America


To Paula and Don Goodlett



Baen Books by ERIC FLINTRing of Fire series:1632
1633 (with David Weber)
1634: The Baltic War (with David Weber)
Ring of Fire Ring of Fire II
1634: The Galileo Affair (with Andrew Dennis)
1634: The Ram Rebellion (with Virginia DeMarce et al.)
1634: The Bavarian Crisis (with Virginia DeMarce)
1635: The Cannon Law (with Andrew Dennis)
1635: The Dreeson Incident (with Virginia DeMarce)
Grantville Gazette Grantville Gazette II Grantville Gazette III
Grantville Gazette IV Grantville Gazette VTime Spike (with Marilyn Kosmatka)Joe's World series:The Philosophical Strangler
Forward the Mage (with Richard Roach)Standalone titles:Mother of Demons
Crown of Slaves (with David Weber)
The Course of Empire (with K.D. Wentworth)
Boundary (with Ryk E. Spoor)With Mercedes Lackey & Dave Freer:The Shadow of the Lion This Rough Magic

With Dave Freer:
Rats, Bats & Vats The Rats, The Bats & The Ugly

Pyramid Scheme Pyramid PowerWith David Drake:The Tyrant The Belisarius Series with David Drake:An Oblique Approach In the Heart of Darkness
Destiny's Shield Fortune's Stroke
The Tide of Victory The Dance of TimeEdited by Eric Flint:The World Turned Upside Down (with David Drake & Jim Baen)
The Best of Jim Baen's Universe
The Best of Jim Baen's Universe II (with Mike Resnick), forthcomingWith Ryk E. Spoor:Mountain Magic (with David Drake & Henry Kuttner)
Boundary (with Ryk E. Spoor) PrefaceEric FlintThis fifth volume of the Grantville Gazette represents a change in the format of the Gazettes. Two changes, actually—one major and one whimsical.The major change is that with this paper edition of the Gazette we have abandoned the formula we used for the first four volumes. That formula was straightforward: we simply took the equivalent electronic edition of the magazine, added a new story by me, and—presto—we had a paper edition. For bibliophiles, collectors and completists, it was all very easy. Gazette 1 (electronic edition) became Gazette I (paper edition). The only difference beyond the format was the addition of a new story by me, a new preface, and changing the Arabic number to a Roman one. Thus, Gazette 2 became Gazette II, 3 became III, and 4 became IV.Alas, we can no longer continue that austere tradition. The reason is also simple, and—at least from my standpoint—represents one of those very nice problems called "problems of success."Nice as they may be from one angle, problems of success are still problems and have to be addressed. The problem in this case is that Baen Books, the house which publishes the paper edition of the Gazettes, can no longer keep up with the production rate of the electronic editions.The paper editions had already fallen badly behind at least two years ago. Gazette III (that's a paper edition, as is true of any of the Gazettes with Roman numerals) came out in hardcover in January of 2007. Four months later, in May of that year, we started publishing the electronic edition of the Gazette on a regular bi-monthly basis—with volume 11. Thereafter, the situation just became hopeless, with a new electronic edition of the magazine appearing every two months. Baen is a book publisher, not a magazine publisher, and can only afford to set aside (at most) one slot per year for the Gazette. By the time this paper edition of Gazette V appears on the bookstore shelves, we will have published Gazette 24 in electronic format. If we stayed with the one-to-one formula, it would be 2028 at the earliest before it could appear in a paper edition.Something had to give. I discussed the problem with Toni Weisskopf, Baen's publisher, and we agreed that beginning with the fifth (paper) volume, the Gazettes would adopt a "best of" formula rather than being a straightforward transfer of a complete electronic magazine issue into its equivalent paper volume.And that's what you have in your hand. The title says Grantville Gazette V, because there are good and practical marketing reasons that you don't want to confuse readers with too many formulas. The Ring of Fire series is already complex enough, thank you. So, we're continuing the tradition of numbering paper editions of the Gazette with Roman numerals. But we could just as easily and perhaps more accurately have titled it, The Best of Grantville Gazettes 5 through 11—because this volume contains stories that were originally published in one of those electronic editions.That will continue to be the formula for the paper editions of the Gazettes from now on. They will all be "best of" volumes, incorporating stories from roughly half a dozen electronic issues. So, those of you who really want to have every story published in the Gazettes will henceforth need to buy the electronic magazine. You won't simply be able to assume that a paper edition will follow with the same contents.I say this, you understand, in the sturdy tradition of grasping authors. The Order of Doctor Johnson, it's called. (And if you're not familiar with Doctor Johnson, see the afterword at the end of this volume.)One thing has not changed—every paper edition of the Gazette will contain a new story by me that did not appear in the electronic edition, and never will. In this volume, that's my novelette "Steady Girl." And if it dawns on you that one side effect of this sturdy tradition is that a reader determined to get every Gazette story can't settle for just getting the electronic magazine but also has to buy each and every blasted paper edition . . . Well, yes, that's true. I've been a faithful adherent to the Order of Doctor Johnson for many years now. One other thing hasn't changed either, although it's undergone a transformation—and that's the whimsical change I referred to in the first paragraph of this preface. It had always been the tradition, with paper editions of the Gazette, for Jim Baen to commission cover art based on a reworking of some famous painting of the 1632 era. (How much reworking? Enough to dodge modern idiotic copyright regulations. And if you're wondering how anyone can possibly claim "copyright" on images created by artists who've been dead for centuries, well, so am I.) I would then be presented with the end result, announced by a phone call from Jim—this was accompanied by what sounded suspiciously like snorting noises—and it would be up to me to figure out a story that explained the cover art.It was a game between Jim and me that had actually started with the cover art to 1633, one of the novels in the series I coauthored with David Weber. Jim really liked the image produced by Dru Blair of an armored seventeenth-century cavalryman staring up at a huge "ironclad." When David Weber and I complained that the warship depicted looked far more like a World War I era dreadnought than any ironclad we (the mere and miserable authors) had in the actual story, Jim loftily informed us that good cover art was good cover art and it was damn well our job to figure out a way to explain it in the story.Which, indeed, we did, scribbling away in the night and muttering curses on the subject of publishers. But the truth is, I enjoyed the game. It was fun in its own right, but it also forced me to engage in the authorial equivalent of stretching exercises. Every occupation has it hazards, and one of the hazards for storytellers is that they can easily get too obsessed with the majesty of the trade. Which, yes, certainly has its Shakespeares and Tolstoys and Flauberts to celebrate—but is ultimately a none-too-reputable craft begun tens of thousands of years ago around hunter-gatherer campfires, and continued in more civilized times by bards singing whatever the local king or baron damn well wanted to hear that night.This is true of all arts, by the way. Joseph Haydn is today mostly remembered for his symphonies and string quartets and oratorios—but the great composer also has some two hundred baryton trios in his life's oeuvre. And what, you ask, is a "baryton"? It's a musical instrument that was already becoming obsolete in Haydn's day—you can think of it as grotesquely complicated violincello—but which Haydn's patron Prince Nikolaus Esterházy liked to play. The prince wanted baryton trios, so Haydn wrote them. And while no one in their right mind considers those pieces the equal of the London and Drumroll symphonies, or The Seasons, still they are pleasant to the ear—and the requirement to produce them on order undoubtedly kept Haydn's creative mind nimble and flexible.Then, in June of 2006, Jim Baen died. I figured the game had died with him, but it's had an interesting resurrection. I was discussing the cover we'd need for Gazette V with Tom Kidd, the regular artist for the Ring of Fire series. In the course of the conversation, Tom mentioned that he had an idea he'd like to try. I told him to go ahead—whatever he'd like—and once he was done, I'd write a story to match the cover. An illustration of the illustration, so to speak. And that's the provenance of my lead-off story in this volume. The trick to this exercise is to turn what is inherently a whimsical sort of tale into something that advances the overall development of the Ring of Fire series. In that regard, I'm quite pleased with "Steady Girl." First, it builds on many preexisting elements. Some of them, like Francisco Nasi's position, manifest themselves in practically every book of the series. Others, like Denise Beasley's connection to Kelly Aircraft or her relationship to Nasi, are the products of specific stories. (In the case of the first, my short novel "The Austro-Hungarian Connection" in Ring of Fire II; in the case of the second, the novel I recently coauthored with Virginia DeMarce, 1635: The Dreeson Incident.)But "Steady Girl" also goes forward, with new developments that will help lay the basis for later stories, in a number of ways.Which ways? How? Well, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until later books appear in the series and you can, ahem, buy them.I told you. The Order of Doctor Johnson. Member in good standing, dues paid up and paid in full.—Eric Flint, March 2009 Steady GirlEric Flint Noelle Stull's kitchen
Grantville, capital of the State of Thuringia-Franconia
June 12, 1635
"I'm telling you, Noelle, something's wrong with Eddie," Denise Beasley insisted. She stared into the coffee cup in front of her with all the intensity of a fortune teller reading tea leaves. "He's been acting weird for weeks, now. He hardly talks to me at all any more, he's so damn obsessed with making money."In point of fact, there were tea leaves at the bottom of the cup and Denise had drained it dry enough that they could be read. Assuming she was a fortune teller, that is, which she wasn't. Indeed, she would have heaped derision on the suggestion with all the enthusiastic energy of which her sixteen-year-old self was capable. That was a lot of enthusiasm and energy, which made her current mood all the odder. "Glum" and "Denise Beasley" were terms that normally couldn't be found in the same room. For that matter, the same football field.Standing at the stove where she was bringing a kettle of water to a boil, Noelle Stull looked over her shoulder at Denise. A close observer might have spotted something unusual in that look. A hint of scrutiny. A trace of amusement. Perhaps also some concern and trepidation.Denise, however, missed all that. She was too intent on staring at the tea leaves in her cup. "I don't like it," she concluded. "One damn bit."Seeing that the water had come to a boil, Noelle used a folded up towel to lift the kettle off the stove and start another pot of tea brewing. "I've had enough," Denise said. "I don't much like tea, anyway.""I do," said her best friend, Minnie Hugelmair, who was sitting at the far end of the kitchen table. "Even if coffee weren't so expensive, tea is better.""And since when is tea 'cheap'?" jeered Denise. "If you want 'cheap,' drink broth. The only reason Noelle can afford tea or coffee is because she's a government bureaucrat, living off the fat of the land—fat of the taxpayer, I should say—while she makes life miserable for the hardworking folk who produce all the real wealth by making them fill out useless forms for sixteen hours a day." She took a deep breath. "Thereby draining the nation's treasury, impoverishing its spirit and threatening its very soul, because nobody has time to do any real work."Noelle started refilling her cup and Minnie's. "Been spending time with Tino Nobili lately, I see. How in the world did that happen?"Denise made a face. "I had to go to the pharmacy to get some medicine for Mom and I got trapped.""Exactly how does a sixty-five-year-old reactionary pharmacist with a potbelly and a bad knee trap a sixteen-year-old in very good health who is every truant officer's personal nightmare?""How do you think? He musta spent half a goddam hour mixing up Mom's stuff. The over-the-counter ibuprofen's long gone, you know. I would've left except her cramps are really bad this time. By the end, though, I was figuring I might die of starvation before Tino finished, on account of how I now understood that nobody actually makes anything any longer including farmers, who are idle in their fields. And it's all on account of you.""Well, yes, that's true," said Noelle. "If anybody did any actual work instead of filling out my useless paperwork—which, oddly enough, consists of specialized forms filled out by less than one percent of the population, but never mind, a good Tino Nobili rant is a thing of wonder—then my stratospheric salary might get cut down to merely ionospheric proportions. And if that happened, I might have to settle for a town mansion instead of a country estate for my retirement home.""You've got it all wrong," Minnie said firmly. "The ionosphere is higher than the stratosphere." She began gesticulating, as if she were stacking invisible books. "At the bottom, there is the troposphere. That's where we live. It goes up about ten miles and has more than three-fourths of all the air, measured by weight. Okay, then there is the stratosphere. It goes from about ten miles up to about thirty miles high. After that comes the mesosphere, the thermosphere and the exosphere. The ionosphere is part of the thermosphere. Way higher than the stratosphere."Denise stared at her friend as if she'd suddenly discovered that an alien moved among them. Minnie shrugged. "I pay attention in class, even if you don't. Especially science class, because it's really interesting.""And good for you," Noelle said. "Unlike Denise, you won't wind up with a brain like Tino Nobili's."Minnie giggled. "All shriveled up. Hard as a walnut and just about as big."Denise gave her a disgusted look. "Fat chance." She then transferred the look of disgust onto Noelle. "It's your fault. If you didn't overwork Eddie the way you do, he'd have some time to relax.""As it happens," Noelle said mildly, "I'm barely working him at all, these days. He asked for as much time off as I could give him, and he got it. It's to the point now where I'm skirting the edge of fraud, the way I mark him down for working full days when he's not even close. Some days he barely shows up at the office at all."Denise frowned. "Then what's he—""All kinds of odd jobs he picks up," said Noelle. "Mostly from his father's connections. Down-timers with money will pay a lot to get solid advice from another down-timer who understands up-time legal practices and the way to maneuver through the bureaucracy.""See?" said Denise triumphantly. "You just admitted it yourself. It's a bureaucracy!""Well, of course it is. What else would government agencies be? A sports league?"Minni giggled again. Noelle took a sip of her tea. "Back up-time, I'd have to rein him in. Government officials are allowed to give advice to people who use their agency's services, of course, but they're not supposed to get paid for it. Down-time, though . . ."Minnie grinned, being a down-timer herself. "Oh, come on. By today's standards, Eddie Junker is the soul of probity. He won't give anybody privy information and he won't take bribes to finagle contracts or juggle results.""Yes, I know. That's why I look the other way.""But why?" demanded Denise. "Since when did Eddie care that much about money?"There was silence in the room. Noelle and Minnie glanced at each other. Denise, naturally, spotted the glance. Despite the gibe, and leaving aside Denise's cavalier attitude toward formal education, there wasn't the slightest resemblance between her brain and a shriveled up walnut."Okay!" she said. "You guys know something! So give." Noelle sighed, then drained her cup and rose from the table to return it to the sink. "He wants to learn how to fly. And he figures flying lessons are going to cost him an arm and a leg.""Bound to," said Minnie. "The air force won't teach him unless he signs up, which he's not about to do. Eddie hasn't got a military bone in his body, even if he does shoot a gun real well. That means he's got to pay the Kellys to teach him."Denise frowned. "How much do they charge?""Who knows?" said Noelle, coming back to the table and sitting down. "There are no established rules or regulations, much less standard pricing, for flying lessons. They range all the way from a half-baked 'simulation' on somebody's computer to the sort of training pilots get in the air force. And you know what Eddie's like. He's not about to do something like this half-assed. He'll want to be trained by real pros like the Kellys.""That means Kay Kelly will call the shots," Minnie added, "and you know what she's like. Eddie figures she'll want the equivalent in money of the pound of flesh nearest to his heart."Denise's expression had been growing darker by the second. "You mean to tell me that Eddie Junker's been working like a dog in order to pay the Kellys for flying lessons?""That's the gist of it," said Noelle."We'll see about that!" Denise exploded. And off she went, up from the table and out the back door to Noelle's apartment like the proverbial flash. A few seconds later, they heard Denise firing up her motorcycle and racing off. Doing a wheelie, by the sound of it.She'd been in too much of a hurry to even close the door. Noelle got up and shut it, then sat down again."You should have told her," Minnie said accusingly."Told her what?""You know. Why Eddie's doing it. As if he just decided to start flying for no reason!"Noelle's lips tightened. "I don't approve in the first place, Minnie. You know that perfectly well.""So what? I probably don't approve either. Not that I don't like Eddie a lot myself, but the whole thing's just silly. In a few weeks, we won't even be living here any more. We'll be in Magdeburg. A few months after that, we'll be in Prague."Noelle's lips tightened still further. She knew the basic parameters of the plans Minnie and Denise had made with Francisco Nasi. Now that Mike Stearns had lost the election and wasn't the prime minister any more, his intelligence chief had decided to go into private practice—in Prague, because Nasi also had some long-overdue personal matters to deal with, and Prague had the largest and most sophisticated Jewish community in Europe.Personally, Noelle thought the man must be insane. Why in the world would he want to saddle himself with looking after two teenage girls? Especially those two. Either one of them was a handful and a half. Put them both together . . . Noelle thought the wisecrack of one of the high school teachers about Denise and Minnie—in tandem, they're the fifth horseman of the Apocalypse—was overstating the case. Probably."Who knows when we'll see Eddie again, after we move?" said Minnie. She shook her head. "That's going to be really hard on Denise. Since her father got killed, she leans a lot on Eddie even if she pretends she doesn't."Noelle didn't say anything. Right there, she thought, was the heart of the problem. For all that there was no surface resemblance between stolid and level-headed Eddie Junker and Denise's ex-biker father, there were a lot more similarities than the average person might realize. However flamboyant Buster Beasley's reputation had been—and his death had been every bit as flamboyant—when it came to his daughter Denise, the man had been rock solid for the girl. As dependable as the tides.There wasn't anything flamboyant about Eddie Junker. But he'd been Noelle's partner for some time now, and she knew him very well. They'd gone through the Ram Rebellion together, along with their adventure with the defectors and Janos Drugeth. If anyone had asked her to sum the man up, the first terms she would have used were "solid as a rock" and "dependable as the tides.""Denise'll be okay, Noelle," Minnie said. "She's really smart, even if most people don't realize it because she gets bored in school and cusses like a soldier. Well, it doesn't help, probably, that she's beaten up a few boys, too. But only when they kept hitting on her after she told them to stop."There was a lot of truth to that assessment, Noelle knew. But it still hadn't stopped Denise from . . . Oh, let's see. Recently? Just in the last few months?Picked a fight with an army officer. No verbal joust, either. A down home fist fight—well, Denise had gone to bar stools and salt shakers real quick—in a tavern.Stolen an airplane.Crashed said airplane. Well, fine, she hadn't been the pilot. Had participated in the crash of a stolen airplane.What else of note? Noelle wasn't positive, but she was pretty sure from odd bits and pieces of data that had come her way—despite her innocuous-sounding formal title, she amounted to a secret agent for the government of the State of Thuringia-Franconia—that Denise had been centrally involved in the still mysterious episode involving Bryant Holloway's killing. The man had been "shot into doll rags," as one person who'd seen the body reported to Noelle afterward.Could Denise Beasley shoot a man into doll rags? By all accounts, quite unlike Noelle herself, the girl was adept with firearms. So . . . yes. No doubt about it.Would she do it, though? Knowing Denise as well as Noelle did . . . Oh, yes, given the right situation. Noelle didn't have any doubt about that, either.But all she said was, "I hope you're right."
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