Chapter Nineteen

May 1634, Grantville, State of Thuringia-Franconia, United States of Europe

Janet Rogers, the News Director of VOA was at her wits' end. "Jesus, Dee! Hilda can't get any work done for all the callers asking if the war is over yet. Isn't there any way to pull in the reins on that crazy preacher?"

"I don't see how," Deanna Dee replied, "But don't pull your hair out and strew it all over the VOA studios because of him. There's no requirement in the contract keeping him from practicing his faith. Unfortunately, we just didn't realize that prophecy played a big part in the Pentecostal faith when we made the deal with them. We certainly didn't think they'd go off the wall and start prophesying the end of the war.

"The thing about it is, Fischer has been like a rock star for us. He's brought us huge audiences that have carried over to all areas of our programming. We probably have at least ten times as many people listening now as we did when he started up that radio show."

"But it's . . . it's irresponsible!" Janet cried out in a desperate tone. "We've got crowds gathering out front waiting to hear us announce the war is over at any minute!"

"Yes, I know." Deanna Dee shook her head in agreement. "That's the problem with rock stars. Sooner or later, they start to break up the furniture."

Janet's shoulders slumped. "I think I miss the disco demonstrators."

Deanna Dee laughed. Then she asked, "Have you wired your stringer reporters in Magdeburg and following the front?"

"Yeah, I telegraphed all of them first thing this morning after realizing what was happening outside. We've heard back from Kurt and Shultz in Magdeburg. The crowds are even worse there. They've surrounded the War Department and had to be driven away from the gates of the Navy yard.

"Only a couple of the reporters in the field have checked in. They only acknowledged receipt of the telegram. My guess is that they are outside our coverage area by now, so it shouldn't affect the armies yet."

Deanna Dee rocked back and forth in her chair for a moment, then mused, "Well, I know John must be blowing his top right now. I wish he wasn't on the road. We need him."

Augsburg

"And, exactly how do you know this self proclaimed prophet Der Fischer, Herr Garb?"

Marco could feel the attention everyone else in the room now focused on him. If they had been a bit younger, rather than the old, venerated financial lords of Augsburg who did not normally show their emotions on their faces, their collective jaws would have been resting on the floor.

"It's really quite serendipitous actually, Herr Geuder. My daughter in Grantville is seeing the good Reverend . . . socially that is."

From the head of the table, Wilhelm Fugger cleared his throat. As a remote relative of the long-dead Jacob "The Rich" Fugger, he was the first among the equals in this meeting. "Herr Garb, your daughter Constanzia seems to have a nose for getting to the heart of matters, doesn't she?

"First, she provides us with an amazingly accurate vision of where the American investment market is heading, and now, in her spare time I gather, she becomes socially acquainted with a prophet."

After the laughter subsided, Marco responded with a smile. "Yes, my daughter has always had the gift of discerning what was not obvious to the rest of the family. Seriously, that is why I dispatched her to Grantville in the first place. These Americans, they are so practical. They have refined this democracy of theirs to such a state that they don't know how to be devious with matters of business. They don't fear the dangers of passing around critical knowledge, even though they think they do. In a culture like theirs, I had a sense that Constanzia would find out which way the winds would be blowing out of Grantville."

"You certainly have convinced me, Herr Garb. Bravo!" Fugger looked out the window for a moment as he considered his next words. He had a strong family resemblance to his paternal ancestors. It was accentuated by the painting of Jacob the Rich by Albrecht Durer hanging on the wall directly behind him.

Again, Fugger cleared his throat. "It's no secret that my family's investments have not fared well during this war. All of us are being squeezed by the Swedish occupation of Augsburg and our business is hampered by all these checkpoints the Swede has put into place throughout the Palatinate.

"We've agreed that we would rather join this United States of Europe with its new economy than continue with the Holy Roman Empire, but we've got to end the occupation as soon as possible. I don't give a damn about this Fischer's confessional beliefs. I do believe that he is in the process of becoming a very strong leader in the USE. If we can start to influence him, maybe he can force the Swede to give us our own state. Then, we should be able to guide this prophet to the 'right' side of our issues."

The other bankers and wealthy merchants in the room looked around at each other, and seeing general agreement, looked back at Marco Garb, still somewhat in wonder as how he had managed to get such an accurate read of the impact of American skills and culture so quickly.

"Then it's settled, Herr Fugger, gentlemen." Marco lifted his leather briefcase onto the table and inserted his notes back into it, "I will go back to Grantville and personally meet my daughter's good friend Fischer . . . and begin his education on the broader issue of financial self interest."

Magdeburg, Magdeburg Province, United States of Europe

Friday night was children's night at the Magdeburg revival. There were hundreds of children gathered around Fischer as he finished up his children's sermon and handed them over to Sister Jennifer for the closing song. As he picked his way through the children, all seated cross-legged on the ground surrounding him, he was surprised at how attentive they had been.

Looking around at their parents, largely mothers and the wives of soldiers and sailors who were off to the front, he saw the same sense of awe in their eyes that he'd noticed wherever he went in Magdeburg this past week. Fischer had become adjusted to the way his congregation looked at him. He was clearly viewed as a leader in their eyes, but this was somehow different. More like what he imagined how his contemporaries must have viewed Martin Luther himself.

Tonight would be the first night since they had decided to abandon the tent. The crowds he was attracting had long since outstripped its ability to provide cover. In it's place, Slater had come up with a quarter dome shaped structure, covered by canvas, that kept the altar itself protected from the weather, and also allowed the spotlights to reflect a soft light on the choir and the band and, of course, Fischer.

Before that Fischer had to complete his blessing of the house church leaders now gathered in the revival encampment from all over the USE. Most he'd met before, but the church elders had decided that the Magdeburg revival was the perfect opportunity to inject a greater sense of mission and a larger purpose into these local leaders of their rapidly growing faith. As Chalker had commented, this would be the cornerstone of the Magdeburg Pentecostal Church in more ways than one.

Hans Richter Square, Magdeburg

Terrell Nemeth scowled at Art Berry's back as he stormed out of the control room high up in the tower overlooking Hans Richter Square on Saturday. Terrell couldn't understand why Art was so bothered by the light reflecting cross at the back of the stage

Frankly, Terrell thought, If I could get hold of a couple of those VOA vacuum tubes, I could build my own transmitter for the church and not have to deal with Art and his tantrums.

"Nemeth, you read me?"

"Roger. I've got you five by five, Mr. Berry."

"Okay. If the hook up with Grantville will hold, we should get through this event without any difficulties. Nemeth, do you see that group toward the north end of the square? They don't look too much like the rest of the pilgrims that your preacher normally attracts."

Terrell stood and leaned over the rail to get a better view. Sure enough, the group that Art had spotted looked more like ruffians that had occasional run-ins with the Magdeburg police patrols than your typical revival attendee. He'd have to keep an eye on the group and warn Slater to keep an eye on them as well.

One thing hadn't changed since Slater's healing. He still didn't shy away from a good fight, although he and his roadies had become been quite disciplined in keeping it focused on crowd control rather than their old drunken brawling habits.

****

With the on-air broadcast portion of the night's revival coming to an end, Fischer raised his right arm over his head and began his closing benediction. "God Bless all the souls gathered here tonight and gathered around their radios throughout this beautiful German land. God Bless, the soldiers and sailors from all the Germanies that fight to sweep our new republic clean from the blight of foreign invaders . . . "

It was at that point the shouting began.

"What about the emperor?"

"Yah! How about the Swedish army that pulled your German bacon out of the fire?"

"Why don't you bless the emperor, Winkelprediger?" The insult caused the gathered congregation to gasp in shock at this unexpected interruption of their religious experience. Winkelprediger was a German slang term that roughly translated into the American term "incompetent, jackleg preacher."

Fischer's head snapped up and he glared through the lights in his eyes to see who had begun to heckle during his closing prayer. Spotting them, he moved to the northern edge of the altar closest to the hecklers and angrily responded, "God bless the King of Sweden. And God bless the United States of Europe."

The crowd immediately surrounding him marveled as Fischer's skin darkened and the thin white scar on his forehead began to glow. It was something that was rumored to happen when Der Fischer was under the guidance of his Holy Spirit, and now they saw it for themselves.

Almost spitting it out at the hecklers, Fischer then shouted with all his might, "And may God be praised that after this war ends he will find a way to guide the Swedish king in peace back to his throne in Stockholm, leaving the citizens of Germany free to elect our own emperor."

A burst of applause broke out from the congregation. In the meanwhile, Slater and his gang of roadies surrounded the group that Terrell had warned them to watch out for and forcefully began moving them away from the rest of the congregation. As they were being cleared from the square, a chant rang out, "Born Twice, Die Once! Born Twice, Die Once!"

The entire congregation in unison began to place their fists against their chest, then raised their right hands straight up in the air and defiantly join in with the proud statement of the belief of their church and its leader, Der Fischer.

****

The crowd gathered for the revival on Sunday evening was very different from those before. The news of the disturbance at Hans Richter Square the previous night had spread like wildfire throughout the USE. All day long, riders had come into Magdeburg on horses and wagons and trains, all prepared to see this evangelist who dared to speak the truth of the Swedish king who occupied their land.

Most of them would admit that if it hadn't been for the Swedish army, Tilly and his armies would have continued to devastate the land and its people. But now that the war was just about over, the wrongs that the Swedes had done in the Germanies needed to be settled as well. Gustavus Adolphus had made no bones about his theory of how to conduct his campaigns: "Let the war pay for the war."

Because of this, many of the Lutherans who had been relieved to see the Swedish Lutheran Army come would now be more than willing to see it go.

So the crowd gathered on this last night in Magdeburg looked less a gathering of older men, widows, and children, and more a gathering of bands of militia before a battle. Some even raised the standards of their organizations. Even the banner of the Franconian Ram flew.

Worried that the temper of his audience was on the edge of dangerous, Fischer toned down his remarks. No healings tonight. He didn't think that he could channel the emotional power it took for a service like that with this group.

Indeed, Fischer was keeping a close eye on this gathering to make sure no flare-ups occurred like the previous evening, so he immediately noticed when someone ran into the tent from the direction of the airfield and forced their way to the front of the congregation.

One of Slater's roadies intercepted the young man before he could get too close to the altar. As Fischer continued with his sermon, he kept an eye on the two of them excitedly whispering to each other. Then, all of a sudden, the roadie swept up the young man in a bear hug and began to shout, "Halleluiah! Praise God!"

Now, pulling the young man behind him, the roadie ran toward the altar where Fischer stood. "Preacher! Preacher! You did it!"

Fischer paused in his prepared sermon and looked at the two men running up to him with smiles beaming from their faces. When they reached him, the young man shouted out, "The war is over! I just hear over the airfield radio. Denmark has surrendered! The war is over!"

Bedlam broke out throughout the congregation. Men and women hugged, children started dancing, and they all shouted out thanksgivings for ending this war, which had killed so many. Then, slowly they turned toward the altar and began to shout, "God Bless Der Fischer! God Bless Der Fischer!"

Fischer had been wrapped in an embrace of the young man and his roadie who had brought the good news. Now, hearing the chant breaking out from the congregation, he released the men and ran over to Sister Jennifer. He whispered in her ear for a moment, and she ran over to each section of her choir shouting out instructions. Then, jumping up on her director's stand, she raised her arms and they sang out the old Negro spiritual, "Down by the Riverside."

Through chorus after chorus of " . . . ain't going to study war no more . . . " mixed with the general euphoria of the news, Fischer marveled at the incredible timing that the Holy Spirit had. The Spirit had known that this would happen and brought him here at this precise minute to fulfill God's plan. Surely, there was nothing left to doubt. He was God's chosen instrument in this new timeline. From now on, he would remember that it was God who was personally leading him to his personal destiny, not other men.

Someone tapped his shoulder. Terrell stood there with tears streaming down his face. "Brother Fischer, it's Reverend Chalker. He collapsed at the last service today in Grantville. They don't know if he's going to make it."

Chapter Twenty

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff