Chapter 10

“You're not asking for much, are you, Morris?” said Bernard Fodor. The older of the two Fodor brothers was doing his best to grumble, but the effort was being undercut by the other members of his family. Not only was his brother Cyril smiling, but his wife was almost laughing.

Not to mention his two kids, Amy and David, both of whom were smiling as broadly as his brother.

“What d'you all think is so damn funny, anyway?” he groused. “We're talking about completely disrupting our lives. Giving up everything. You'd think there'd be at least one solemn face in the crowd, besides mine.”

“Oh, come off it, Dad,” said his daughter Amy. The teenager's smile was now an outright grin. “Giving up what? A house you've never liked much and never quit griping about? A job you like even less and gripe about even more?”

“Job pays good,” he said stoutly.

“Not half as good as Mr. Roth is offering,” countered his wife Joanna. “Even leaving aside the fact that you'll have part ownership in the business, which is more'n you got with the rail shop back in Grantville.”

Bernard was nothing if not stubborn. “Already got part-ownership in my business with Cyril. Half-ownership, in fact, which is more than I'll have in this new outfit Morris wants to set up.”

“Oh, for Pete's sake!” said his brother Cyril. “Yeah, sure. You and me each own half of an auto repair and body shop business—which ain't enough to keep either one of us working at it full-time, since the Ring of Fire. Seeing as how your automobile maintenance industry kind of shriveled up and died on the vine, seeing as how there ain't hardly no functioning cars any more.”

He nodded toward Morris. “Whereas what he's offering is to set up a major manufacturing facility. With a steady and reliable business.”

“For at least two years, anyway,” said Morris. “After that . . . ”

“After that, we're on our own, maybe.” Cyril didn't sound disturbed by the possibility. “But even if your war wagon orders dry up completely, so what? By then, if we don't screw up, we'll have by far the biggest and best equipped metal fabrication company in Bohemia. More business is bound to turn up.”

General Pappenheim, who'd been silent up till now, cleared his throat. “That's almost a certainty.” He gave Roth a thin smile. “Don Morris is too cautious to speak of it directly. But the fact is that the king is bound and determined to develop a munitions and armament industry here in Prague. Even assuming that Don Morris' requirements come to an end—not likely, ha!—there would be other work coming from Wallenstein. Probably even before then, in fact.”

He gave the two Fodor brothers a look that could have been described as “hawk-like” without insulting any raptors. “Especially if you can persuade him that there is any future in steam engine vehicles beyond locomotives.”

“Sure there is,” said Cyril. “It's just blind luck that internal combustion engines back up-time—”

“Lay off, will you?” said Bernard. “Now's not the time for that.” He looked at Morris, while rubbing the back of his neck thoughtfully. “One-fourth of the business, right? Shared evenly between me and Cyril.”

Morris shrugged. “You and your brother get twenty-five percent of the stock. How you divvy that up between the two of you is your business.”

Bernard nodded, still rubbing his neck. “And Larry Monroe gets another twenty-five percent. And you keep half of it.”

“That's it. I put up all the capital except for some of the equipment you'll bring here from Grantville. And I handle the wages of the employees for the first two years. You and Cyril and Larry don't have to worry about meeting the payroll for that critical first stretch.”

Bernard and Cyril exchanged a glance. That feature of the deal eliminated the single biggest strain on a new business, of course. But the flip side of it was that . . .

“But you do all the hiring, too.”

Morris shook his head. “Not all of it, no. The two of you and Larry will do most of hiring of the skilled labor. I'm just handling the unskilled and semi-skilled applicants.”

The two Fodor brothers studied him for a moment.

“Which is gonna be about ninety percent of the workforce,” pointed out Cyril mildly.

Morris shrugged again. “Look, guys. I made no bones about this at the beginning, and I'm making no bones about it now.” He got up from his chair in the big salon and moved toward one of the windows. “Come here. I want to show you something.”

As the two brothers got up to follow him, Morris glanced over his shoulder and said: “All of you come over and look. You may as well see what you're getting yourselves into.”

The two wives got up also. Those were Joanna, married to Bernard; and Willa, married to Cyril. So did Bernard and Joanna's teenage children, Amy and David.

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff