12th of Sivan, 5391 ( June 12, 1631 )

As Yossie walked down the road Thursday morning, he was struck by an unlikely fact. His surroundings no longer shocked him. When he'd arrived in Grantville, the well-painted houses made of sawn planks had seemed very alien. Now, only a week later, he was living in such a house in the outlying village of Deborah. Then, the sight of the yellow buses taking children to the huge school down the valley would have frightened him. Now, he had ridden such a bus once, and he was about to ride one again.

The marvels that Grantville had somehow brought from the distant future were overwhelming, but after a week, Yossie was starting to see more. The future world from which Grantville had come may have had its wonders, but it had not always been kind to Grantville.

In the world Yossie knew, he could blame abandoned houses and recent ruins on the war that had now lasted for more than a decade. As he passed the remains of abandoned buildings that divided upper Deborah from lower Deborah, he wondered what had happened in Grantville's world to cause such damage.

When he came to the main road through lower Deborah, Yossie put aside his questions. Two men were standing on the corner where he'd been told to wait for the bus. They were wearing the closely cut trousers of faded blue twill that many Grantvillers favored, but his eyes were on their helmets. They were not like the military helmets he knew, and their colors were both bright and strange.

The day before, Yossie had gone to a meeting in Grantville for refugees who wanted work. Most of the Grantvillers with jobs to offer needed the help of translators to address their German-speaking audience. The man who spoke for Grantville's coal mine had been an exception, speaking fluent but oddly accented German.

Yossie had heard several times about the mine, but he had never seriously considered working there until that meeting. The man who'd spoken wasn't a very good salesman, although he did try. He spoke about how important the mine was to Grantville, and about the value of the coal rock they would mine. That was not what moved Yossie. The first thing that impressed him was the man's apparent enthusiasm for working in the mine, while the second was his plain-spoken honesty about the dangers of the work.

Yossie was also curious about the man's strange position at the mine. He'd said that he wasn't the owner or foreman or overseer, but just a mine safety engineer. The term was strange, and after he'd explained it, the idea was even stranger. Yossie had never imagined that a nobleman or company would hire someone just to prevent others from hurting themselves.

The bus interrupted Yossie's thoughts as it rumbled into view. After it stopped, he hesitated briefly, watching the Grantvillers get on. The smell and noise were still strange, but if the Grantvillers could ride, he could too.

The bus was another example of Grantville's odd mixture of wealth and disrepair. Yossie couldn't even begin to estimate the value of the machine, but he was sure that it was immense. Why, then, had nobody made an effort to repair some of the torn seats?

The bus stopped several times on its way through Grantville, picking up more men at each stop. The Grantvillers rode together at the front talking and laughing. It seemed that they all knew each other. The Germans riding in back were quieter. For many, this was their first ride on such a vehicle. They were all refugees as well, strangers in Grantville and mostly strangers to each other.

At a stop in central Grantville, a man sat down beside Yossie. "I'm Thomas Schmidt," he said said as the bus lurched onward. "Who are you? I saw you talking to Herr Koch yesterday."

"Joseph Hanauer," Yossie answered, puzzled by the man's accent. It was not the Thuringian accent he was growing used to, nor any accent he had heard in the lands to the west.

A month ago, he would not have expected a Christian stranger to sit by him. Now, Yossie understood that his status as a Jew was invisible to the man. Yossie was not trying to hide it. His clothing proclaimed that he was a Jew, but the Germans of the Thüringerwald didn't seem to understand what would have been obvious to those of the lands to the west.

"Who is Herr Koch? Do you mean the man from the mine?" Yossie asked.

"Yes," Thomas said. "Herr Koch said this mine needed a smith, and I am the son of the son of a smith. If it can be made of iron, I can make it. Do you have a trade?"

Yossie started to tell about the print shop in Hanau. The bus turned onto a well-graded gravel road that followed the curve of a side valley while he talked. Yossie had just started to explain that he hadn't been an apprentice but merely a common laborer when the view out the window drove thoughts of Hanau from his mind.

A line of alien structures came into sight. Two round gray towers dominated the curving row of buildings that followed the valley floor. The complex was almost half a mile long, and each building was linked to the next by a long sloping tube. The towers looked like they might be made of very fine stonework, but the other parts were a mystery. Were the rust stains on some buildings evidence that they were made entirely of iron?

The valley ended abruptly in a high black cliff not far beyond the strange structures. Yossie knew those cliffs, but neither he nor anyone else understood them. They marked the border between the familiar German lands and the strange land of Grantville that had somehow come from almost four centuries in the future.

One of the Grantvillers riding at the front of the bus stood up, holding the seats at each side for support as he addressed them, in English. "Welcome to Murphy's Run Mine, folks."

The bus went past many of the mine buildings and through a gate in the woven wire fence that paralleled the road. They passed a strange framework with great wheels on top and then came to a stop.

Yossie recognized the man waiting for them despite the helmet he was wearing. It was the man Thomas Schmidt had called Herr Koch.

"Good morning, Guten morgen," he said, after they had gotten off of the bus. "I am Ron Koch," he said, and then he repeated himself in strangely accented but fluent German. "Our job today is to take this thing apart." He waved at a long line of machinery that ran up the side of the valley.

After giving more detail about the day's work, he announced that each of the Grantvillers would begin the day by supervising one or two of the new men. Then he began calling out names and handing out slips of paper. Yossie's slip of paper said "Joseph Hanauer arbeit mit Bob Eckerlin." Yossie was briefly puzzled by the printing. It was blurry, almost as if a layer of inked cloth had been set between the type and the paper as it was printed.

After a bit of confusion, Yossie found Bob Eckerlin. Each of them had pronounced the name of the other so badly that Yossie wasn't sure of their pairing until he'd seen Bob's sheet of paper. Bob's paper was printed in the same odd way as his own, but it said much more, and all in English.

For the next few hours, Yossie did his best to do as Bob directed. Bob began by showing Yossie how to wear a helmet like those worn by the Grantvillers. The hard hat, as it was known, had a complex web of straps which had to be adjusted to make it fit his head. It was lighter than he expected and surprisingly comfortable, but it was some time before he got used to wearing it instead of his own felt hat.

Yossie and Bob had the task of removing things called rollers from the long framework that led up the hill away from a strange structure in the valley. There seemed to be hundreds of these rollers, and Yossie could easily see how their arrangement had allowed something to slide along the structure with almost no resistance. Each roller was held in place by screws that worked exactly the same way as the great screw of a printing press. All of them were iron, though, and perfectly identical.

Bob Eckerlin knew almost no German, except a few stock phrases, but he knew enough to teach Yossie the names of things. They were using wrenches to remove bolts from the rollers that were part of the conveyor, and then putting the smaller parts in a cleverly made metal bucket.

Unfortunately, Bob's sparse German was insufficient to explain what it was that this conveyor had once done. Above them, the conveyor disappeared over the curve of the ridge, in the direction of the ring of black cliffs that marked what some Grantvillers called the Ring of Fire. Only a week ago Yossie had looked down those cliffs to see Grantville for the first time.

Working up on the side of the valley, they had a good view. The conveyor rose from the base of a metal building and what looked like another conveyor ran from there up to the top of a round gray tower. More conveyors linked that tower to a black building, and there were towers and conveyors beyond that.

Other crews were at work along the conveyor. Some were removing the arched roof over the rollers. Others were doing more mysterious things. A teamster with a freight wagon made regular trips along the conveyor taking loads of salvaged material down the hill.

Yossie enjoyed the view of the thick forests covering the hills but he wondered why the cleared land in the valley and along the conveyor looked so poorly tended. Much of the land looked like it had been roughly plowed and then abandoned to grow weeds and scrub.

Around midmorning, Ron Koch called a break. "Does anyone have questions?" he asked.

Many of the men were drinking water from strange conical paper cups, but Yossie ignored the offer of a drink. He was suspicious of the water and he was puzzled about the kosher status of the cup. A tin cup would have posed no problem, but paper cups were a novelty and he doubted that the glue holding them together was made from kosher hide.

"What was this thing?" someone asked, pointing to the spidery structure of the conveyor.

"A conveyor belt," Ron Koch said. "It was used to move waste from the coal washing plant to the waste pond. The pond was just outside the Ring of Fire, so we need a new place to put our waste.

"There was a sheet like a wide belt that rode on these rollers. The belt carried the waste. We removed the belt already. We can use it down at the mine when other belts break. We need to get all the iron here, that is your job."

"Do we get to keep these helmets?" someone called out.

"Yes, so long as you work for the mine. If you quit your job, you must return them."

"I thought we were going to mine coal," someone else said.

"We will, "Ron said. "And soon, I hope. First, though, we need to get the mine ready. For that, we need to make some things from the iron we get here."

"But where is this coal?" another man asked. It was Thomas Schmidt, the man Yossie had spoken with on the bus.

"The Pittsburgh coal is about four hundred feet below you," Ron answered. "There are other layers, but that is the big one."

"When we came here this morning, you called this place the mine," another man said. "I'm a miner, and I still see no mine. Where is the hole in the ground?"

"All the buildings down there are part of the mine," Ron said. "See those towers with great wheels on their tops? Those are the headframes, the hoists built over the holes. The west one is for lifting people in and out, the east one is for lifting coal. The big towers are silos for storing coal. The building between them is for washing the coal."

After the break, Bob Eckerlin left them, and Yossie was paired with Thomas Schmidt. "So Joseph," Thomas said, as they worked at opposite ends of a roller. "You said you came from some town near Frankfurt. Was it a Protestant town?"

Yossie knew he was being asked his religion, but he wanted to avoid that question, so he answered literally. "Hanau is just up the river Main from Frankfurt. That land is all borders, with Catholics to the south, Lutherans to the north, and Calvinists to the east. All of them come together in Hanau, and we have a colony of Walloon Calvinists too."

"Before I came to Grantville, I would have thought that was crazy," Thomas said. "Now, I am not so sure."

"Grantvillers are a shock," Yossie said. "I have never met anyone like them."

"Where I come from, we were all Lutherans," Thomas grumbled.

"Where is that?" Yossie asked, before putting his weight into loosening the next bolt.

"North of here, on the edge of the Harz mountains, a town called Thale." Thomas grunted as he started the bolt turning on his end. "It was too close to Magdeburg so we came south when foragers began stripping the countryside all around. I thank God that we left when we did."

He paused, with a pained look on his face. "Just a few weeks ago we had to run again. A band of stragglers came and burned the village outside Jena where we were staying, may they be eternally cursed. We didn't run far enough the first time."

Thomas and Yossie lifted the roller free and set it on the edge of the walkway, and then Thomas spoke again. "Why did you leave Hanau with the war so far away from you?"

"The man I worked for died, may his memory be a blessing," Yossie answered. He didn't want to talk about himself, so he changed the subject as they began work on the next roller. "Thomas, you said that you were a smith. I know a little bit about smithing. How did they make this thing?"

Thomas looked baffled. "I have no idea. There are no hammer marks on the ironwork, and all these bolts and rollers seem perfectly identical."

That topic occupied them for a good part of the day as they worked their way up the conveyor. Yossie wasn't bothered by the identical bolts because of his experience with printing type, but he had to explain to Thomas how type is cast so that all the copies of each letter are perfectly identical.

In turn, Thomas had to explain why the ironwork bothered him so much. "This is all wrought iron, it must be," he said, banging his wrench against one of the bars of the conveyor framework. "Nothing else would ring like that. If it is wrought iron, it was hammered to shape, but there are no hammer marks."

He paused to run his fingers over one of the joints in the structure. "These two bars look like they were joined by melting. I could join lead bars that way, but these are iron. Nothing I know would make enough heat to do that, but most of the joints in this thing are made this way. It is as if welding was easier than riveting."

When they stopped work for the midday meal, the divide between Germans and Grantvillers was apparent in a new way. The Germans had all been told to bring food. They had, in bundles or in baskets. In contrast, all of the Grantvillers seemed to have metal boxes or pails to hold their food. Many of them had metal bottles of some evil smelling black drink that smoked as if it was hot, even after being left all morning.

Yossie's bundle held a hard chunk of the sausage he had helped make less than a month ago in Kissingen, a small loaf of home-baked bread, and a bottle of watered wine. Some of the Germans had less, few had anything more elaborate.

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff