1632, near Puerto Real, Andalusia
Juan Antonio de Aguilera was sitting trying to read while he waited to hear sounds from above. He glanced across the room at his father, who looked a lot more relaxed than he felt. He put down the book he wasn’t managing to read and glanced up toward the bedroom above.
“The baby will come in its own good time,” Antonio Diego de Aguilera said.
“But it shouldn’t take this long, surely?”
His father shrugged. “Mar’a is the most experienced midwife in Puerto Real. With her in charge, what can go wrong?”
The words had barely left his mouth when they heard a baby’s cry from above. Antonio smiled smugly. “What did I tell you?”
Juan rose to his feet and started for the stairs. He fully expected the midwife to call him in shortly. What he wasn’t expecting was his mother swinging open the door and shouting, “Call for the doctor.” Then she looked at Juan, and his stomach fell. Something was wrong, badly wrong.
Juan pushed his way into the bedroom, then stopped. The midwife was massaging Magdalida’s nether region and there was blood everywhere.
Juan must have uttered something because the midwife turned to face him. “I can’t stop the bleeding,” she explained softly. “Nothing I have done has worked.”
Juan pushed past her and reached for Magdalida. He ran gentle hands over her face.
She reached out for the hand and guided it to the baby feeding hungrily at her breast. “We have a son,” she said.
Juan had to strain to hear. He ran the back of his forefinger gently across his son’s face, while trying to ignore the sharp winces that flashed across Magdalida’s face. He held her close.
“I want to call him Eduardo, after my papa,” she whispered.
Juan looked into her dulling eyes. “Eduardo it will be.”
February 1635, Cadiz
Juana de Silva wouldn’t normally willingly cross the threshold of Luisa de la Vega’s home, let alone drag her granddaughter along with her. However, her good friend, Anna Mar’a, wanted Juana to meet her goddaughter, Catalina de Mendoza. It was just unfortunate that the most timely opportunity to inspect the possible candidate for Juan’s hand—one of the regular social gatherings arranged to introduce young girls to polite society—should be meeting at Luisa’s home.
Juana smiled at the sight of her granddaughter playing with some of the other girls under Catalina’s supervision. “She is a most delightful girl,” she told Anna Mar’a.
“And well connected, even if she is only a minor twig on the Mendoza family tree.”
“She has a good dowry?” Juana asked, concentrating on important matters.
“Well, I can’t really say it is a good dowry, as Mendoza dowries go, but two villages aren’t to be sneezed at.”
“And she does seem to be getting on well with Isabel.”
Anna Mar’a smiled. “Then it is agreed? We arrange for Catalina to meet Juan.”
“Yes.” Juan was still resisting the idea of providing his children with a new mother, but at least he might make the effort to look at the girl.
“I must show you what my husband sent back from Venice.”
The strident tones emitted by Luisa caught Juana’s attention. “I wonder what the old witch’s husband has paid too much for this time?” she asked her friend.
Beside her, Anna Mar’a giggled. “Something extremely rare and expensive, no doubt. I must go to Catalina. You’ll write when you’ve made arrangements?”
Juana nodded, and together they gathered their respective charges and dutifully trailed behind Luisa de la Vega.
Luisa led everyone to an elaborate display cabinet. “This is my most prized possession. My husband was most fortunate in being able to purchase it at considerable expense on his recent trip to Venice.” She stepped away to let everyone see.
Juana’s granddaughter jumped up, waving a doll. “You’ve got a Barbie just like mine!”
Juana knew she should reprimand Isabel for speaking without being spoken to, but the horror and embarrassment visible on the faces of Luisa and her cohorts kept her smugly silent while Isabel showed off her doll, which was exactly the same as Luisa’s—although considerably more bedraggled.
“Where did you get that?” an outraged Luisa demanded, reaching for the doll in Isabel’s hands.
Frightened by Luisa, Isabel rushed to her grandmother. Juana wrapped her arms around the trembling child and faced Luisa. “It’s one my youngest son, Alfredo, gave to her.”
Luisa pointed an accusing finger at Juana. “You let a child play with a priceless up-time artifact?”
Juana gently stroked Isabel’s hair and smiled serenely at Luisa. “Only the ones that had already been well played with.”
Isabel turned and, from the safety of her grandmamma’s arms, carefully counted off on her fingers the various Barbies and Barbie accessories she had. Juana was impressed at how well her seven-year-old granddaughter remembered what she had been given. She didn’t miss one.
“But none of the ones Isabel plays with are in anything like that good condition,” Juana said. “No, the ‘mint in box’ ones like that are kept locked in a cabinet.”
“I’m not allowed to play with them.” Isabel pouted.
Juana sighed in silent relief when Isabel stopped talking. It wouldn’t have done for her to tell everyone that the cabinet in question was in one of the attics. She glanced over at Anna Mar’a. Now might be a good time to take their leave. She jerked her head suggestively toward the door and Anna Mar’a nodded.
A month later
The planned meeting at San Sebastian’s had not been the success Juana had hoped for. Catalina had indicated interest in Juan, but the ungrateful idiot hadn’t reciprocated. Instead, he had pushed his way through the crowds in the Street of the Arch after services in his rush to get back to his wretched flying machine, leaving his poor mother to make excuses for his inexcusable behavior.
“It’s not right,” Juana de Silva protested to her husband later that evening. “Isabel and Eduardo need a mother, and Juan refuses to even consider remarrying.”
“My love—Magdalida died in his arms,” her less-than-sympathetic husband said.
“It is nothing but foolishness. God needed Magdalida more than Juan and the children did.”
Antonio Diego de Aguilera shook his head. “You’ll never convince Juan of that. He maintains that he will never expose another woman to that risk again.”
Juana snorted. He might be her most favored son, but Juan was still only a man. She couldn’t see him keeping that promise forever. However, it was an obstacle . . . just when she’d found an ideal candidate. Catalina de Mendoza was a modest girl of good family and fortune. “Isabel and Eduardo lost both parents when Magdalida died. Juan has buried himself in his flying machines instead of caring about them. Something must be done to convince him to provide them with a loving mother.”
“What do you suggest? Father González has already spoken to him, with no effect.”
“Priests! What good is a priest? No, what is needed is someone who can convince Juan that what happened to Magdalida is unlikely to happen again.”
“One of the up-timers?” Antonio suggested.
“Dr. Nichols would be ideal. Even Juan must have heard of the famous Moor.”
“I fear Dr. Nichols is unlikely to be interested in coming to Andalusia,” Antonio said. “I’m sure he is much too busy practicing his profession in Grantville.”
“What about one of the other doctors?”
Antonio shook his head. “I don’t think we could interest an up-time trained doctor to come to Puerto Real. However, Fredo has spoken of the new doctors being trained in Grantville and at Jena. I could write to him and ask him to find someone suitable.”
Juana sighed. “Ask him to find an up-timer who has trained as a doctor if he possibly can.”
“Of course,” Antonio said as he wrote a short note to himself. “Anyway, where is Juan?”
“Where do you think? Chancing his life playing with that devil-spawned machine.” Juana shook her head in disgust at the risks Juan was taking. “If God had meant man to fly he would have given him wings.”
Meanwhile . . .
“Hold her steady,” Juan told the student piloting the airship.
He glanced forward, toward the landing field, where dozens of men were waiting on the ground to grab the handling ropes that dangled from the Pepino. “When you cross the fence, reduce power,” he instructed the student.
Fernando L-pez de Pérez nodded to indicate he’d heard the instructions and aimed for the men assembling on the landing field.
They were coming in nicely when Juan felt the first telltale signs of a cross-wind hitting the Pepino. “Apply power,” he screamed.
Juan willed Fernando to react, to apply power so that the Pepino would gain lift from its forward momentum, and achieve the safety of altitude. Instead, Fernando cut the throttle back, causing the Pepino to sink closer to the ground.
To Juan’s horror, men on the ground grabbed at the handling ropes. He knew there was no way so few men could stop the wind carrying the Pepino away, and leaned over the edge of the gondola to shout at them to let go. Then the full force of the cross-wind hit the Pepino, and sent it sideways. Juan was almost tipped from the gondola as the gas-bag tried to fold under the force of the wind. The airship was blown, careering out of control, toward the trees at the edge of the cleared landing field.
Time passed slowly for Juan as the trees grew closer. From the moment the Pepino hit them, time moved too quickly. He was thrown from the gondola and fell through the branches to the ground. On the ground, staring up at the Pepino entangled in the tree above, his final thought before he blacked out was “Don’t let it burn.”
Early April, 1635, Grantville, USE
John “Sully” Sullivan guided his mother to the dining room table where his wife and three children were already seated.
After settling her, he took his seat and surveyed his sons and daughter across the empty expanse of the table. John Junior, Jack as he preferred to be called, was as usual, all attentive; Linda was busy tending to her nails; and the youngest, Jacob, was, as he always seemed to be doing these days, feeding his face. “Your mother and I have some good news, and some bad news. Which do you want to hear first?”
“The good news,” Jack said.
John glanced over at his wife, but Annamarie shook her head indicating that he had the floor. “Your mother and I have accepted an offer of employment that will allow us to put Jack and Linda through med school, and send Jacob to the university of his choice.”
Jacob, always the first to pick-up on points one would prefer were missed, piped up. “Where are these jobs?”
“We will be working for Alfredo de Aguilera’s family,” Annamarie said.
“But he comes from Spain, and the Spanish are our enemies,” Linda protested.
“We’re actually at peace,” Jack corrected.
John dived in before the kids started squabbling . . . again. “That’s enough, you two. Yes, we’re currently at peace with Spain, and the contract your mother and I have accepted was too good to turn down. Besides, it’ll be easy for us, since your mom insisted that we all keep up our Spanish even if we can no longer visit her family.”
“But I’m supposed to be entering the medical program next year,” Linda protested.
“I’ll be renting my place and moving in here to look after you, Linda. It’ll be just us two girls together,” Dorothy Sullivan said.
John knew his daughter well enough to read the horror she was busy concealing. “Or, of course, you could come to Spain with us.”
Linda visibly shuddered at that suggestion. “No. Staying with Grandma will be okay.”
“Which just leaves Jacob, who will be going to Spain with your mother and me.”
“Leave Grantville?” Jacob asked. “But I don’t want to. Why can’t I stay here with Grandma too, Dad?”
“Because I said so,” John said. “Besides, you never know. You might enjoy it.”
“But all my friends are in Grantville,” Jacob protested.
“You never had trouble making friends when we visited your mom’s family in Puerto Rico, so you shouldn’t have any trouble making new friends in Spain,” John told him. He and Annamarie had already decided that Jacob was coming with them, come hell or high water. There was no way they were leaving him behind, given the group of undesirables he’d been mixing with lately.
May, near Puerto Real, Andalusia
“The bones look to have set properly,” Sebastian Ferrer said as he gently ran his hands over Juan’s leg.
Juan glared at the man in the brown habit and white belt of a Franciscan lay brother. “And what would you do if they weren’t properly set? Break them and try again?” Juan thought he was being sarcastic, but the gentle nod from the heavyset man was anything but reassuring.
“You don’t really expect me to believe you’d break my bones if they weren’t healing properly?” he demanded.
“I wouldn’t enjoy doing it,” Sebastian said.
Juan raised his brows. The mauling he’d suffered at the bonesetter’s hands when his leg was set gave the lie to that. He was positive the man had smiled all through the procedure.
“The alternative would be that you are left crippled for life because the bones don’t heal properly.”
Juan looked at his left leg, finally free of its splints. He reached down to scratch the itch that had suddenly started. He had to concede that point. Nobody wanted to be crippled for life. However, it was purely academic, as the man seemed happy with his handiwork. “How long before I can walk again?”
“You could get up right now, with a little help.” Sebastian lifted Juan’s legs off the bed and carefully set his feet on the floor. “Give me your arms.”
Juan reached out, and suddenly he was pulled to his feet.
“We’ll just walk to the door and back this time. If someone will take your other side?”
With a servant standing to his left and the bonesetter to his right, Juan slowly shuffled to the door and back. He fell onto his bed and lay down, exhausted after walking a massive twenty feet. “How long before I’m fit?”
“If you don’t force the pace and hurt yourself again, maybe six or seven weeks.”
Juan winced. “Another six or seven weeks?”
“Maybe eight,” Sebastian said.
Annamarie Sullivan leaned on the starboard gunwale of the De Fortuijree and stared at the city in the distance. She’d always wanted to visit Cadiz, and there the city was, just across the bay from where their ship was anchored.
“Is that where we’re going?” Jacob asked, tugging on her jacket and pointing across the ship.
Annamarie turned her back on Cadiz and looked across the ship toward Puerto Real. “Yes, that’s Puerto Real. The de Aguilera’s live somewhere past the city.”
Jacob kicked out at one of the strategically placed sand-filled fire-buckets on the deck. “Dad said we were going to be traveling through pirate-infested waters.”
“Dad was right. The English Channel is pirate infested.
“But we didn’t even see another ship.”
She reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Poor thing, nothing exciting ever happens to you, does it?”
Jacob shook off the hand, and glared at her. She grinned at his offended look and offered him the crook of her arm. “Come on. It looks like your father might have all our stuff on the lighter.”
“Are you going to use the ladder again, Mom?” The hint of a grin started to displace the scowl on Jacob’s face.
Annamarie looked across the deck to the other passengers preparing to disembark using a bosun’s chair. “They do look ready to be outraged again, don’t they?”
Jacob produced a full-blown smile as he nodded.
“Well then, who are we to disappoint them? I’ll follow you and your father down the ladder, just like I did when we stopped over at Amsterdam.”
Alfonso, the de Aguilera major-domo, stood on the dock watching people disembark from the De Fortuijree, a Dutch armed-merchant of eighty lasts. He was looking for the Americans Alfredo de Aguilera had recruited. He almost missed the female, until he saw her ignore the bosun’s chair and climb down the ladder to the lighter below. She looked Spanish, which was why he hadn’t thought her to be one of the Americans. However, no Spanish lady would ever climb down a ladder, especially not with sailors waiting below.
Once he’d identified the woman, the rest of the Sullivan family were easy to find. The husband was darker-skinned than his wife, suggesting a life spent working in the sun. Alfonso shuddered at so little care taken of one’s complexion. Why, people might mistake him for a peasant. He lowered his telescope and snapped his fingers hopefully.
When nothing happened he looked over his shoulder, and released a sigh. The quality of help was deplorable. “Get up, you lazy clots. The up-timers will soon be here.”
Alfonso knew his people, so he didn’t rely on just words to get the two peasants moving. He managed to give each of them a solid kick in the rump before they could avoid him. “Hurry up; I want the horses here before they reach the dock.” While Sancho and Pedro hurried off Alfonso prepared to greet his employer’s newest employees.
“Allow me,” he said as he offered the se-ora a helping hand off the lighter. A surprisingly strong hand gripped his hand and the woman jumped onto the dock.
“Thank you,” Annamarie said. “I’m Doctor Sullivan. You wouldn’t happen to be here to meet us, would you?”
“Your husband is also Doctor Sullivan?” Alfonso asked, hoping that maybe the up-timers allowed the wives of doctors to use the honorific.
“No, just me.”
Alfonso hoped he was able to conceal his horror. A female doctor? How was this blasphemy possible? More importantly, how would the local Franciscan order, which was waiting hopefully for someone to teach them the up-time medicine, going to cope with being instructed by a female?
While Jacob got to know the spirited pony he was allocated, John and Annamarie examined the two horses provided for them. One was a stallion, the other a mare. “I think you should take the stallion,” John suggested.
“You thinking about your hip?”
It was nearly seventeen years since he’d been invalided out of the US Army after breaking his hip in a parachuting accident, He’d mostly recovered, but . . . “Nah. It’s doing the thinking for me. The mare looks nice and quiet.”
John helped Annamarie up onto the nearly sixteen-hand stallion before mounting the smaller mare. He was adjusting his stirrup leathers when there was a clatter of hooves and squeals from Jacob’s pony. He looked across to see the animal rearing. A glance at the ironmongery in the pony’s mouth suggested the source of the problem. Obviously Jacob had forgotten that he wasn’t on his old pony, using his normal mouthpiece, and he’d done something to upset the animal. Then Annamarie’s stallion decided anything the pony could do, he could do better. Annamarie was caught with her feet out of her stirrups—probably because they had been too long and she was shortening them. But she had her legs clamped tightly around the animal’s chest and a hand gripping the saddle just under the pommel, while she used her free hand to bring the animal under control. The whole family had just about been born in the saddle, so he had absolute confidence in both Jacob’s and Annamarie’s ability to control their mounts, but he didn’t want his mount joining in on the fun.
“I hope you aren’t planning on joining in,” he said to the mare’s head.
The mare’s ears twitched at his voice and she turned her head as if to glare at him. He could swear she was expressing disgust at the very idea. When Jacob and Annamarie had their mounts back on the ground and under control, he shortened his reins and gripped a little tighter with his calves. That didn’t excite the mare to move, so he told her to move out. That didn’t excite any action either, and John was thinking he might have to actually kick her to get her moving when the others started to move. John’s mare decided she wanted to stick with her herd and followed them. John shrugged philosophically. Maybe the mare was going to be a bit too gentle a ride.
Outside the city, he edged up alongside Alfonso to find out more about the clinic they were supposed to be running.
“There might be problems with the Franciscans,” Alfonso said.
“Why?” John asked. They’d been assured back in Grantville that there would be no problem with the Franciscans. In fact, they’d been told by Alfredo de Aguilera that the Franciscans were very open to new knowledge.
“I don’t know how they’ll take being taught the new medicine by a female.”
John smiled. So that was the problem. “Don’t worry. I’ll be in charge of training, while Annamarie deals with treating patients.”
“But your good wife said that you weren’t a doctor,” Alfonso said, obviously confused.
“I’m not, but I spent nearly twelve years as an Army Special Forces Medic. I’ve got a lot of experience training people.”
“Why are they building a cathedral in the middle of nowhere?” Annamarie interrupted, pointing to a large structure in the distance.
“That is not a cathedral, Dr. Sullivan,” Alfonso said. “That is His Excellency’s new airship hangar.”
“Airship hangar?” John stood in his stirrups to get a marginally better view. In the distance, he could see an enormous structure surrounded by scaffolding. In his travels, he’d seen the airship hangars at Moffett Field and the Zeppelin hangar in Rio de Janeiro, and, well, this one looked like it was going to be that kind of big. He settled back in his saddle and turned to Alfonso. “Someone’s making an airship that big?” he asked, gesturing at the structure under construction.
“His Excellency, Don Juan Manuel Pérez de Guzman y Silva, believes that airships could provide a means of moving the treasures of the new world home to Spain without risk of piracy.”
“Hence the size.” John nodded. If one stopped to think about it, that was reasonable. Certainly, there was no way any normal pirate could intercept an airship. “We were told that Don Juan de Aguilera was injured when his airship crashed into trees.” He pointed toward the hangar. “Does that mean we’re close to our destination?”
“Just over the next hill, Se-or Sullivan.”
John knew enough to take “over the next hill” with a large pinch of salt, so he wasn’t surprised that it was another twenty minutes before they topped a hill overlooking the sprawling white-washed walls and terracotta roof complex that was the de Aguilera hacienda.
They were led through an olive grove to the stables, where they dismounted. Then, while their mounts were led away, they and their baggage followed Alfonso to their temporary quarters.
“If you would like to tidy up, I will inform Do-a Juana that you have arrived.” He paused to look pointedly at their clothes. “She will wish to see you immediately.
John waited until Alfonso had left before turning to his family. “I guess that means we better wash up and put on our Sunday best before we’re called in to meet our boss.”
“Do I have to?” Jacob asked.
“Yes, you do,” Annamarie said. “Find where the servants have put your good clothes and then wash and change.”
Do-a Juana dusted her hands nervously over her gown. It was of the latest fashion, being black, but not an ordinary black. It was a true black. The fine silk overdress was dyed with the wondrous dyes being made in Grantville. Who would have thought that Alfredo, usually so feckless Alfredo, would think of sending back dyes from Grantville?
She heard footsteps in the hall and hurried over to the settee she’d had placed so the light from the window was behind her, and fell onto the seats she’d had placed for the up-timers on who so much depended. She wanted to be able to see their every expression clearly during the interview.
Juana noticed the female first. Se-ora Sullivan was—or at least she looked—Spanish. She was wearing a tailored white blouse with beautiful embroidery, and a full length skirt in a black at least as good as her own dress. The males were dressed in black trousers and white shirts. She studied the boy, and silently complimented the woman on her ability to turn her son out looking so clean and tidy. Juana knew how hard that could be. “I wish to talk to your parents now. Follow Alfonso. He will take you to the kitchen, where, no doubt, the cook will have something for you to eat,” she told Jacob.
The bright smile that elicited from Jacob told Juana that up-timer children were not that much different. Certainly, at his age, her sons had always been concerned with their stomachs.
“Doctor Sullivan,” Do-a Juana de Silva addressed John. “My eldest son . . . ”
“I’m sorry, Do-a Juana, but you are mistaken,” John hastily interrupted. “I’m a nurse, my wife here—Annamarie—is the doctor.”
Juana turned her eyes onto the Se-ora Sullivan. “You are truly a doctor?”
“I’m one of the new Doctors of Osteopathy, Do-a Juana. I was a nurse up-time, and I trained as a doctor at Grantville and Jena after the Ring of Fire.”
Juana smiled. It couldn’t be better. A male doctor wouldn’t understand her problem. “That is close enough,” Juana said. “My eldest son . . . ”
“I understand he was involved in a serious accident,” Annamarie interrupted.
Juana waved her hand in dismissal. “A few broken bones and some bruising. Nothing of consequence. No, Juan’s accident isn’t what I wish to talk to you about.”
“Broken bones and bruising can have long term consequences,” John said, massaging his hip.
Do-a Juana glared John into silence. “Juan has had the attentions of the best of medicants. Certainly we have paid enough to restore four chapels for his care. No, this is much more important. My Juan is a widower. A widower with young children, and he refuses to think of remarrying.”
“How long has he been a widower?” Annamarie asked.
Juana smiled. Yes, the woman understood the problem. A quick glance took in the confusion on the face of the doctor’s husband. Clearly, as a mere male, he had no idea. “Over three years. His Magdalida died giving little Eduardo life.” She patted her suddenly teary eyes with a scrap of heavily embroidered linen. “The poor boy and his older sister need the influence of a mother, but Juan refuses to even think of remarrying.” She blew her nose into the handkerchief. “Magdalida died in his arms, you see. She bled to death. There was nothing either the midwife or doctor could do.
“Since Magdalida’s death, my son has refused to consider marrying and putting another woman at risk of dying like that again.” Juana stared at Annamarie. “I want you to persuade him that your modern medicine will prevent it happening again, and it is safe for him to remarry.”
John stamped around the room in frustration. “How the heck do we reassure a guy that a woman won’t die in childbirth? And what happens if we can’t convince him it’s safe to remarry?”
“Stop fretting, John.” Annamarie laid a hand on his shoulder. “What’re the most likely reasons for fatal postpartum hemorrhaging?”
“The doctor fouled up, or failure to pass all of the placenta.”
Annamarie nodded. “And given that the birth was supervised by an experienced midwife, I’d discount physician induced trauma being the problem. Which leaves us with . . . ”
“Part of the placenta being left behind,” John finished the sentence.
“Very good, John, and do we know how to deal with that?”
John nodded. “Sure, a D&C. But how do we convince a down-timer that curettage to remove the bit left behind would have saved his wife?”
“We don’t,” Annamarie said. “There is no way a hidalgo is going to listen to an unsolicited explanation of how we could have saved his wife’s life.”
“So what are you suggesting we do?”
“We’re just going to have to demonstrate how all-powerful modern medicine is.”
John snorted. He knew Annamarie believed in the all-powerful nature of modern medicine about as much as he did—which wasn’t much at all.
“More realistically,” Annamarie said, “you’re just going to have to do such a good job teaching whoever the Franciscans send for training that people start talking about how good the new medicine is.”
“And what will you be doing?” John asked.
“I’ll concentrate on the midwives. If nothing else, the knowledge ought to stop another woman bleeding to death in childbirth.”
A week later
Don Juan sat upon his quietest mare on a hill above the scene of his accident and looked down upon the duke of Medina Sidonia’s airfield. The Richard Peeke—the duke’s new semi-rigid airship—was being guided out of its hangar on the rail system he had pioneered with the Pepino. Once the airship was clear of the hangar, it was released to fly under its own power.
The Richard Peeke was more than three times the size of the Pepino and had something like ten times the power in its two up-time engines. Under the control of its pilot, no doubt that ham-fisted fool, Don Fernando L-pez de Pérez, the Richard Peeke took to the air and gracefully flew over Puerto Real before returning to the waiting mass of men in the middle of the airfield.
“Don Fernando has developed into a fine pilot,” Alfonso observed.
“He could hardly have developed into a worse one,” Juan snapped.
They stared at the airship in silence until it was moved back into its hangar. Then Juan sent Alfonso a wry smile. “I’ve been left behind. They don’t need me any longer, and there is no longer a place for me in His Grace’s plans.” He stuck his clenched fist against his thigh in frustration. “I spent more than the estate could really afford developing the Pepino, and now I have nothing to show for it.”
“You still have the Pepino.”
Juan snorted. “His Grace’s agent has thanked me for letting them have the Pepino as a training vehicle. You think I can now ask for it back?”
Alfonso winced and shook his head.
“That’s what I thought.” Juan kneed his mare into motion and pulled her head around toward home. He nearly cantered home, but the pain in his body quickly had him slowing down to a gentle trot. That was the ultimate humiliation. Not only was he reduced to riding a mare, he couldn’t even travel above a trot. He wondered if the American doctor had anything to reduce the pain.
“I can’t see any problems,” Annamarie reassured the young woman she’d been called in to examine. She sent what she hoped was a reassuring smile toward the midwife who’d insisted on being present.
“I told you so,” the middle-aged midwife said.
“Yes, Mar’a,” the patient said. “But the Se-ora is a doctor, an up-time doctor, and it is good to hear what she has to say.”
Mar’a glared at Annamarie and stormed out.
“I’m sorry about Mar’a. She takes my husband insisting on you examining me personally,” Ursula Lorenzo said.
“She probably thinks you no longer have confidence in her abilities. I’ll talk to her, and see if I can get her to understand that I’m not trying to take over your care.”
“Thank you,” Ursula said.
The huffy midwife, obviously building up a head of steam, intercepted Annamarie on the front steps as she left the house. “You aren’t wanted here. I can look after Se-ora Lorenzo myself.”
“Se-ora, I’m here to help you, not take over your patient,” Annamarie said.
“You already have the se-or insisting that the up-time doctor examine his wife. How is that supposed to help me?”
“He’s just a husband thinking a university degree is worth more than experience,” Annamarie said. “In a straightforward case like Se-ora Lorenzo’s, I’m not needed. However, if something goes wrong, such as in a case like that of Se-ora Amellera, I have knowledge that could help.”
Mar’a snorted. “Not even that puffed up Englishman with his medical degree from Padua could save Se-ora Amellera. What makes you, a graduate of the jumped-up University of Jena, think you could have done better?”
“Was part of the placenta missing?”
The midwife made a sign to ward off the devil. “How did you know that?”
Annamarie pulled the cross she wore on a chain around her neck out from under her blouse and showed it to Mar’a to reassure her that she wasn’t an agent of the devil. “It’s a process of elimination. According to her mother-in-law, Se-ora Amellera died of blood loss after giving birth. Either the problem was part of the placenta not being delivered, or you don’t know how to do your job. And nothing I’ve seen or heard suggests you don’t know how to do your job.”
“Of course I know how to do my job. Nobody in Andalusia has delivered more babies than me.”
“Well, that only leaves part of the placenta not being delivered as an explanation for the bleeding.” Annamarie was hopeful that her judicious lying would reduce Mar’a’s belligerence.
“Nothing I did would get the body to push out the last piece of placenta.” Mar’a folded her arms and glared. “And now I suppose you’re going to tell me that you could have removed the last piece of placenta and saved Magdalida?”
Rather than just answer, Annamarie dug into her medical bag and bought out a curette. “I’d use one of these to scrape the remaining bits off the uterus.”
Mar’a took the ten-inch-long nickel-plated-steel screwdriver-like implement with a half-inch wide open-loop head and turned it over and over in her hands. “This,” she demanded, holding it up, “was all I would have needed to save Magdalida’s life?”
Annamarie winced at the flash of obvious pain passing across Mar’a’s face. “If you’ll let me, I can teach you when and how to use it.”
Mar’a handed the curette back. “What’s it going to cost me?”
Annamarie studied Mar’a’s expression. She still appeared belligerent, but there was a hint of a desire for knowledge. It was clear she expected there to be some price to pay, and there was no way Mar’a was going to believe Annamarie just wanted to spread knowledge. Her hand in the medical bag fell upon some of the Sanitation Commission pamphlets she always carried, and she pulled them out. “How well can you read?” Annamarie asked.
“Well enough,” Mar’a said, as she tried to read the papers in Annamarie’s hand.
“Then I want you to read these, and then talk to me about them. I need to train some assistants, and I’d welcome your assistance in designing a training program.”
Annamarie watched Mar’a take the pamphlets and slowly, using a finger to track the words and her lips moving as she read the first page of 20 Useful Things to do with Carbolic Soap. That was a good sign. She’d been afraid that the Spanish of the mainly noble visitors to Grantville might be different to the everyday Spanish of the ordinary people.
In theory, Manuel Gomez was supposed to be instructing Jacob Sullivan on the local flora and fauna, but Manuel had been distracted by a particularly pretty piece of the local fauna by the name of Inés, and Jacob had been able to escape while Manuel devoted his attention to the young se-orita. That meant he was at a loose end. He could always head for home, but Mom or Dad would just find some chore for him to do. So, he decided to explore the land around the hacienda on his own.
He was among olive trees, not too far from the main house, when he stumbled across something he hadn’t expected to see in Spain. What the heck? It was a real up-time Barbie. Not one of the new wood, porcelain, or cellulose plastic copies. The hair was the clue. It had nylon hair, whereas the copies tended to used real human hair. What it was doing just lying around? Jacob didn’t know, but it was something to relieve the boredom until Manuel came to find him.
A quick search of his pockets yielded a pocket knife—which might be useful—a large handkerchief, and the string he’d been looking for. However, rather than suspend the doll from a tree limb as a target, as he’d originally planed, he decided to try something else. Using the handkerchief and some of the string, in a few minutes he had a four point parachute attached to the doll.
Jacob moved from under the trees as he folded the parachute. With clear sky around him, he threw the doll into the air. On the way down, the parachute deployed, and the Barbie floated down to the ground. Jacob hurried over to the doll and folded the parachute for another flight.
A dozen flights later Jacob was starting to get bored with the game. He folded the parachute for one last flight and threw it into the air.
“What are you doing to Ana?” a young voice demanded.
Jacob barely had time to turn before he was attacked by a little terror. He managed to grab the young girl’s hands and clamp them to her body, then held her securely while they both watched Ana slowly drift to the ground.
“What is that on Ana?” the girl asked.
Jacob looked down at the no longer struggling girl. “A parachute.”
“Can I try it?”
“Only if there’s no hitting.”
The long considering look she sent his way told Jacob it was a struggle of one desire over the other, but eventually she nodded. “No hitting.”
Jacob gratefully released his hold on the girl and together they walked over to where the doll had landed. He folded the parachute and demonstrated to the girl how to hold the doll and throw it.
Her first attempt wasn’t very good. The girl dared him to say anything while she ran over and recovered the doll, then, to Jacob’s surprise, she folded the parachute properly without asking for assistance. Her next throw wasn’t much better than the first. The doll wasn’t getting enough height for the parachute to deploy before it hit the ground. Her lips quivered a bit, and Jacob had the distinct impression that she was on the edge of bursting into tears—something he didn’t want to have to deal with. He shoved his hands in his pockets, and discovered a possible solution. He pulled out the spare handkerchief his mother always insisted he carry and gestured to the girl to bring over the doll. “If we use this as a sling, then we should be able to send Ana much higher.”
Jacob whipped his arm around, releasing one end of the handkerchief-sling at about the right time, to send Ana skyward. He allowed himself a smile of satisfaction as she soared into the air, until the parachute opened, stopping her assent, and then she floated to the ground.
The girl pounced on the doll, and after refolding the parachute removed her hair scarf to use as a sling. She sent Jacob a smug look before using both arms to swing the sling. The launch was successful, and the doll floated gently to the ground. The girl giggled and ran for her doll to try again. She got more than enough height, but her direction was bad. The doll floated into the branches of a tree.
Jacob didn’t need her to turn and look hopefully at him to know what he had to do. He approached the tree and looked for handholds to climb it, but there was noting within reach. He took a few steps back and ran at the tree in an attempt to jump up to the first branch, but he couldn’t quite reach.
“Allow me to be of assistance.”
Jacob swung around. It was Don Antonio, his parent’s patron.
“Grandpapa,” the girl squealed before launching herself at the old man. “Ana’s stuck in the tree,” she said, tugging at his hand and pointing up into the tree.
“I can see that, and this young man needs a helping hand so he can rescue the intrepid aviatrix. Come on, boy; use my hands as a step up.”
Jacob did as he was told, and was soon up on the limb and edging his way toward the parachute. With a little judicious shaking of branches, he was able to shake the parachute free and it floated to the ground. Then he looked down.
“If you hang from the limb, I should be able to lower you to the ground,” Don Antonio said.
Jacob wasn’t sure he should be this up-close and personal with his parent’s boss, but he had offered, and it did look a long way down. He backed down until he was hanging, and two strong hands lifted him under the ribs. “Thank you, Don Antonio,” Jacob said when he was safely on the ground.
Antonio waved Jacob’s thanks away. “No, I should thank you for entertaining Isabel. Now, what is this thing attached to Ana?”
“It’s a parachute. He made it,” she said pointing at Jacob.
“He is Jacob Sullivan,” Antonio said.
“One of the up-timers?” Isabel asked.
Antonio nodded. Then he turned to Jacob and rested a hand on Isabel’s shoulder. “And this, as I’m sure you must have guessed, is my granddaughter, Isabel. Now, young lady, what have you done with your maid?”
Jacob had an idea where the maid might be, but he wasn’t looking to get anybody into trouble, so he kept quiet. Isabel seemed similarly inclined. She looked around as if she was shocked her maid wasn’t within view.
Antonio then turned his attention to Jacob. “Shouldn’t you be with your tutor?”
“Yes, Don Antonio, but he got distracted by a boring piece of fauna, and I just wandered off.” He saw a familiar face just entering the olive grove. “There’s Manuel now.” He hurried over to the approaching tutor. “I said I wandered off while you were distracted by some fauna,” he whispered.
“Thanks,” Manuel muttered before he approached Don Antonio. “I hope the boy hasn’t been bothering you, Don Antonio. I came across Inés looking for Isabel while I was looking for Jacob, and we decided to look for our charges together.”
“Jacob has been entertaining Isabel, and I’d like to talk to him. Why don’t you and Inés take Isabel home?”
With only a little protest from Isabel, who was permitted to keep Ana and her parachute, the three of them set off for home. They were barely out of earshot when Don Antonio turned to Jacob. “A boring piece of fauna? How old did you say you were?”
“Twelve? Maybe that explains it. Now, back to more important things. You made Ana’s parachute out of a simple piece of linen?”
“A handkerchief,” Jacob said, pulling out the spare he’d used to launch Ana. “And some string.”
Antonio accepted the string and handkerchief. “And how do you turn this into a parachute?”
“You take four pieces of string of equal length, and tie one to each corner. Then, you attach the other ends to a weight.” He saw Don Antonio start tying strings to corners, and hunted around for a suitable weight. He couldn’t find anything, so, when Don Antonio was ready to attach a weight, he handed over his pocket knife.
Antonio hefted the knife and looked at Jacob. “Isn’t this a bit valuable to risk?”
Jacob shook his head. “There’s not much chance it’ll break, and the weight will mean you can get some real height.”
Antonio tied the makeshift parachute to the pocket knife. “Now what do I do?”
“You fold the parachute like this, and hold it against the weight,” Jacob demonstrated before handing it back to Antonio. “Then you throw it into the air.”
Antonio threw the pocket knife and parachute into the air, and smiled as the chute opened and the knife drifted down to the ground. He picked it up, and while he refolded the parachute he turned to Jacob. “If you made one big enough, could it support a man?”
Jacob nodded. “You should talk to Dad. He used to jump out of airplanes using a parachute when he was in the US Army.”
“It seems I should indeed talk to your father. Where will I find him?”
“At the clinic,” Jacob said.
“That’s close enough to walk. Lead the way.”
John Sullivan saw them coming—his son and their patron. “Oh, God, what’s your son gone and done now?”
“My son?” Annamarie Rivera-Sullivan said, edging John aside so she could see out the window. “Since when has he been only my son?”
“Since he attracted the attention of Don Antonio.”
Sebastian Ferrer, one of the Franciscan lay brothers they were training at the clinic, joined the Sullivan’s looking out the window. “Don Antonio is not angry. If he was angry, he would be leading the boy along by the ear.”
“I wonder how Don Antonio met my son?”
“So now that he’s not in any trouble, he’s your son again.”
John grinned at his wife. “Well, of course he is. My son would never get into trouble, whereas your son . . . ” He knew who he was dealing with, so he had no trouble avoiding the expected retaliatory kick.
“Mom, Dad, Don Antonio says he can get me in to see the duke’s airship,” Jacob called as he charged into the clinic.
Annamarie caught her son and hugged him. “That’s very good of Don Antonio. I hope you haven’t been bothering him.”
“Your son hasn’t been bothering me. In fact, we’ve been having a most interesting discussion. Se-or Sullivan, Jacob tells me you know something of parachuting?”
John felt a twinge in his hip just thinking about parachuting. The look in Annamarie’s eyes told him she too remembered the incident that got him medically discharged and the long years of rehabilitation that followed. “I used to be parachute qualified.”
“So Jacob said. Would it be possible to parachute from an airship?”
“Sure. You can jump from anything high enough. Back up-time, some silly daredevils were jumping off high cliffs, bridges and buildings.”
“Could you teach people to parachute?” Antonio asked.
“No way!” Annamarie insisted, “You promised!”
John laid a comforting hand on his wife’s shoulder. “What Annamarie means is I can’t really afford to risk parachuting again. I was very badly injured in my last jump. Very badly. If you want to learn parachuting, your best bet is the new jump school Tracy Kubiak’s started up in Magdeburg.”
“If we could make parachutes, I’m sure you could teach some people to use them without putting yourself at risk. Jacob made a simple parachute.” Don Antonio held up the handkerchief parachute he and Jacob had been playing with. “It doesn’t look too difficult.”
John tried to ignore the flaming daggers from his wife’s eyes. “That’s just a toy.”
“Of course it is,” Antonio agreed. “Jacob has already indicated that there should be a hole in the middle to let air through, to stop the parachute swinging. But surely, with a few modifications, it can be scaled up?”
Don Antonio has a one track mind that puts Annamarie to shame. John tried to deflect him, before Annamarie’s daggers became too real. “It’d be a lot easier to work with Tracy Kubiak. She used to be a rigger, and she’s already making her own parachutes, as well as teaching parachuting.”
“That will take time. I was hoping for something a little more timely,” Antonio said.
John swallowed. Annamarie’s heels were digging into his toes, and he knew she was sending him a warning. If he wasn’t careful, he could find himself medically unfit to teach anybody anything. “Is this just a matter of getting people out of an airship quickly, or is there some special purpose?”
“It’s just a thought.” Antonio sighed. “My son was involved in His Excellency’s airship project before his accident. However, since his accident he has fallen out of favor. I thought a demonstration of parachuting from the Richard Peeke might be sufficiently impressive to bring my son to His Excellency’s notice again.”
“Ah, impressive.” John nodded. “I can maybe give you impressive, without involving parachutes. We used to call it fast-roping. You get a thick rope and grab it, and slide down it from somewhere high. You can get a platoon on the ground pretty quickly that way, and you don’t get blown every which-way on the way down like you would with parachutes.”
“And you did this from airplanes?” Antonio asked.
“Heck, no, none of us were that crazy. We did it from helicopters. They’re a flying machine that can hover in place, rather like an airship; only they’re a lot smaller.”
“Would you be able to teach this technique?” Antonio asked, casting a questioning eye in the direction of Annamarie.
“Just as long as he keeps both feet planted firmly on the ground. It’d put too much stress on his hip.”
“I won’t,” John promised. “You’ll need some suitable rope, but more importantly, if you want something impressive, we’ll need a good vertical drop.”
“We have plenty of rope, and there is the Richard Peeke’s hangar. That is eighty feet high. Will that be sufficient?” Don Antonio asked.
“Eighty feet will be perfect,” John said.
“You bet it’ll be perfect. I can’t see John getting eighty feet in the air without the help of an elevator,” Annamarie said.
A few days later
The hangar was a barn on steroids. It looked to be about two hundred feet long, with a central span that looked nearly as wide as it was high. John Sullivan looked up to the apex of the roof, where a platform had been suspended alongside a length of five-inch rope that reached to the ground. It’d been a long time since he’d last done a rope climb. He just hoped he hadn’t forgotten how to do it.
Eventually, he arrived at the top, where he was quickly joined by five scaffold workers who’d volunteered, for a small consideration, to participate in the demonstration. From nearly eighty feet up he looked down, to see and wave at the reason why he had made the climb. Jacob waved back. Annamarie would surely understand that a man couldn’t ignore his son’s expectations.
He pulled on a pair of the heavy leather gloves he’d insisted each man would need. “Right. Remember what we practiced. Grab the rope. Get a firm grip. Then swing free and let the rope slide through your gloves. Remember to tighten your grip to slow down before you hit the ground, and get clear as soon as you can, because the next guy down is right above you.” He waited a moment, hoping that everyone understood. “First man, go!”
The first man went down fast. To be followed by the next person, and the next, until John was the last man. He grabbed the rope, and pushed off from the platform. It’d been a long time since he’d done this, and he relished the thrill of the rapid decent. With his feet free of the rope, he was easily able to land mainly on his good leg and walk away, although his landing was a little heavier than he would have liked.
On the ground, the six of them bowed politely toward the duke and his hangers-on. The scaffolders then hurried over to their friends while John joined his son, who was beaming with hero-worship, beside the de Aguilera’s major-domo. He planted a hand gently on Jacob’s shoulder. “Remember, what do we tell your mother?”
“That half a dozen scaffold workers did the demonstration and that it was real exciting seeing them sliding down the rope.”
They shared a mutual smile. Father and son had grown closer since arriving in Spain. A lot of it had to do with the mutual agreement that what Annamarie didn’t ask, she didn’t have to be told.
“Can I see the Richard Peeke now?” Jacob asked.
Alfonso smiled. “Of course, follow me.”
Jacob trotted alongside Alfonso. “How come it’s called the Richard Peeke?”
“Richard Peeke was—actually, probably still is—a very courageous and gallant fighter,” Alfonso said as they walked. “He was captured by His Excellency after the English attack on Cadiz a dozen years ago. The man made the reckless claim that, armed with just a quarterstaff, he could defeat any number of Spanish sword and buckler men fewer than six. His Excellency gave Se-or Peeke the opportunity to prove his claim against three volunteers.”
“One is left to assume he won?” John said.
“He killed one and incapacitated the other two. And all he had was the shaft of a halberd. His Excellency rewarded him for his fighting prowess and granted him his freedom. You will find that the quarterstaff is a respected weapon in His Excellency’s domain.”
“After Peeke won one against three in a fight to the death, I’m not surprised,” John said.
Do-a Juana de Silva paced back and forth in the sitting room where Don Antonio was trying to do his accounts. “They were supposed to reconcile Juan to marriage, and what have they done?” She paused to dare her husband to comment.
Antonio paused with his pen held above the paper. “I understand the up-timers are doing their best.”
“Well, their best isn’t good enough. Anna Mar’a has warned me that others are interested in Catalina.”
Antonio calmly entered some figures and blotted the ink. “Well, of course there are others interested in the girl. She’s a Mendoza, after all. However, surely being a close confidant of His Excellency would make Juan a much more attractive prospect?”
Juana planted her hands on her hips and glared at the insensitive clod she was married to. She knew Catalina was a Mendoza. That was why getting her for Juan would be such an accomplishment. “His relationship with His Excellency is only relevant if he is interested in remarrying. But what is happening? He is back playing with his flying machines, and not thinking about more important things.”
Meanwhile . . .
Annamarie had been holding a regular clinic session in the village, but the last patient had come and gone, and it was now time to head home for the siesta. Her nose twitched at the mixed smells of wood-smoke and cooking food, and her stomach rumbled its discontent while she waited for Jacob to bring around the horses.
The villagers were stopping what they were doing and looking into the sky, so Annamarie stepped out from her shaded corner and looked up to see what had caught their attention. It was the Pepino. The small airship, or blimp, as Jacob insisted on calling it, was slowly approaching the village and would soon fly over it. While she stared at it, Annamarie realized that something didn’t look right. Surely the nose shouldn’t be flat like that? She burrowed in her satchel for a small pair of binoculars and quickly focused them onto airship.
“What’s wrong with the Pepino?”
Annamarie lowered the binoculars to see Jacob had joined her with the horses and pack animal. “What makes you think anything is wrong?”
“The nose is the wrong shape. It should be rounded.”
Which could only mean one thing. “I think they are losing gas.”
“Is it going to crash?”
Annamarie smiled. Boys, always looking for the worst to happen. “No, they should be able to land fairly easily. Look, they’re getting ready to drop the handling lines.”
“That means they’re going to land.” Jacob nodded knowledgably. “Can we stay and watch?”
“From a safe distance.” Annamarie held out the binoculars.
Jacob grabbed them and ran off, leaving Annamarie to deal with the horses. She tied them up near the water trough and slowly followed. She could see the preparations for landing. The handling lines were dangling. Men were grabbing them, and taking control of the airship. Then the wind caught it.
The airship was shunted along, toward the village, dragging men behind. Then the gondola hit a house. The solid adobe structure ripped apart the lightly-built gondola. Annamarie could see fluid falling from the airship. She started running. “Jacob, stay right where you are!”
For the first time in recent memory, Jacob did as he was told. Annamarie reached him just as a fire engulfed the airship.
“But hydrogen shouldn’t burn like that,” Jacob said.
“The impact must have ruptured the fuel tank,” she said, looking at the burning gas bag. “Gold beater’s skin shouldn’t burn like that.”
“It’s not gold beater’s skin, Mom. Manuel says the original gas bag was, but they tore it badly putting the Pepino into its hangar one time, and it would have been too expensive to repair it, so they made the replacement out of cotton painted with a mixture of gelatine and latex.”
“Latex? Where are they getting latex?” Annamarie asked.
There was a sigh, a real “how can you not know” sigh, from Jacob. “Don Antonio’s duke’s daughter is married to the Duke of Braganza.”
Annamarie wasn’t really paying attention to Jacob. She was looking at the airship. Cotton was among the most flammable of fabrics, and of course, they probably doped the fabric to waterproof it—with collodion, also known as nitrocellulose, or guncotton. She caught part of what Jacob was saying, and repeated the last name. “Braganza?”
“Yes. The duke of Braganza, the premier duke of Portugal. Apparently the duke of Medina Sidonia and the duke of Braganza have an agreement to import rubber from the Amazon into Cadiz.”
Annamarie had barely been listening. She was watching the fire, and hoping that making explanations was keeping Jacob’s attention away from the fire. Hopefully the adobe construction of the house would protect it, but she could see two of the crew struggling to free their colleague from under the burning gas bag. She didn’t want Jacob exposed to the grisly sights she expected, so she turned him to face her. “Jacob, I need you to ride home as fast as you can to get your father. Tell him what we’ve seen. Tell him we need the burns kit.”
She led Jacob to the horses and threw him up into the saddle. Then she grabbed the medical bags from the pack animal and hurried over to help.
She was holding a cup of hydration fluid for the most badly burnt of the Pepino‘s crew when she heard the drone in the sky. She looked up to see the second airship. This one was much bigger than the Pepino, and it seemed to be heading around the village. A moment’s thought and Annamarie realized it was circling so it could approach the village heading into the wind.
She wasn’t the only person watching as the Richard Peeke came to a halt above a field outside the village. Then a heavy rope unrolled from the gondola.
The tail of the rope had barely hit the ground before the first man swung out and slid down the rope.
Annamarie winced when the first man down failed to get clear in time. There was a pileup as the three men following him landed in quick succession. It appeared that no real damage had been done when the four men spread out and grabbed lighter landing lines and seemed to be tying down the airship. Then a familiar shape exited the airship.
What the hell is that crazy fool doing? Swear to God, I’m gonna kill him later. With his hip, John should know better than to fast-rope, let alone do it with a pack on his back.
“We were lucky they had the Richard Peeke nearly ready for a flight when Jacob arrived,” John said when he ran over to her. “What’s the situation?”
“What’s the situation? Is that all you can say? What about explaining that damn fool stunt you just pulled?” Annamarie screamed.
“You asked for the burns pack.”
“But why did you have to bring it down? Aren’t there any suitable dumb young men willing to slide down a rope with a pack on their back?”
“Sure, but . . . “
“So why didn’t you let one of them carry the pack?”
“Because the Richard Peeke doesn’t have enough lift to carry an extra man, and the ground crew needed to secure the landing lines as quickly as possible.”
That all sounded too sensible, and carefully thought out. Annamarie looked her husband in the eyes. Yes, he looked guilty. Her mother’s instincts started screaming at her. Surely he hadn’t . . . “Where’s Jacob?” Annamarie asked, very, very slowly.
John pointed toward the front of the gondola. “He’s still aboard.”
She scanned the airship until she made out Jacob. She desperately wanted to climb that rope and reassure herself that her son was safe. “Why did you have to bring him back?”
“I couldn’t make him miss maybe his only chance to fly in an airship, could I? Besides, someone needs to bring your horses back,” John said.
Her husband was on thin ice. As far as she was concerned, there was no reason for Jacob to ever travel in something as dangerous as an airship. However, it was a done deal, and there wasn’t anything she could do about it now, not when there were patients to deal with. “We’ll talk about this later. Meanwhile, I have one dead crew member and the two other crew members have second-degree burns. They also have third-degree burns on their hands and where their clothes burnt. And six of the villagers suffered minor burns fighting the fire.”
John indicated the two surviving crewmen, currently bundled up in blankets. “Is it safe to move them?”
“Yes, but it’ll be rough getting them up to the gondola.”
“Nah, take on some ballast, vent some gas, and they can bring her right down to the ground. It’s one reason I suggested they should use the Richard Peeke.”
“And getting a ride on an airship had nothing to do with it. Yeah, right. Leave me the burns kit and I’ll start running fluids while you get the airship down to loading height.”
Juan de Aguilera stood clear as the first casualty was carried aboard on the “rescue stretcher” that had been made to the up-timers’ specifications soon after they discovered that there was plywood being produced for the duke’s proposed rigid airship. It had slots for hand-holds cut into the wood, which made it a lot easier to move than the hurdle he’d been carried on when he broke his leg.
The woman, the doctor, passed an inverted bottle in a wicker basket connected by a string of something to the patient to her husband before returning for the next patient. Juan looked over John’s shoulder, but he couldn’t identify the man through the bandages that covered his face. He shuddered at the realization that the man was likely to be horribly scarred for life.
“Hold this,” John said, passing Juan the wicker basket.
He was able to see that it was a tube that connected the bottle to the patient’s forearm. “What is it?”
“It’s an intravenous drip. We have to keep the patient’s volume up; otherwise he’ll go into shock.” John got to his feet and held out a hand for the bottle.
Juan watched John tie it to a part of the gondola frame. That was barely done before the doctor returned with the next patient. While the up-timers dealt with him, the rest of the crew loaded the blanket wrapped body of the third crewman. He stared blankly at the wrapped figure, wondering which of the Pepino‘s crew it might be.
“Right. Don Juan, we’re ready to go.”
Juan throttled up the engines and waved to the ground team to let go the lines. The Richard Peeke started to drift, and then the thrust of the engines took control. Juan waved goodbye to the crew members who’d been left behind because they’d had to vent gas to get down to the ground, and set course for the clinic.
Two weeks later
Juan removed the special sterile coverings he’d been required to wear while visiting Fernando L-pez de Pérez in a state of awe. Fernando and his colleague were recovering, and neither had scarring of the face. Sure, both of them had raw-looking faces that were leaking fluid, but the doctor had assured Juan that this was normal. She had even assured him that they should have full use of their hands.
“The Americans are amazing,” Juan said to himself as he dropped the coverings onto the floor.
“Pick those up and put them in the basket where they are supposed to go.”
Juan wasn’t used to being spoken to in that tone. Actually, he wasn’t used to being ordered around, period. However, the person giving orders was the midwife who’d attended Magdalida, and right now she appeared to be armed. He quickly picked up the coveralls and shoved them into the laundry basket she was gesturing toward. “What is that?” he asked, gesturing to her weapon.
The midwife went teary-eyed and drew the weapon against her chest. “This is a gift from God. It is a curette.”
“And what is a curette?”
Her eyes shifted away from him.
“What is a curette, and why do you consider it a gift from God?” he demanded.
Mar’a backed away from Juan. “It is the tool I needed to save Magdalida.”
The words hit Juan like a hammer blow. He reached out and grabbed Mar’a by the shoulders. “What do you mean, it is the tool you needed to save Magdalida?”
Mar’a tried to look away from Juan, but he was having none of that. He shook her. “What did you mean?”
“The doctor has taught me an up-time technique that could have stopped the bleeding.”
Juan thrust Mar’a away. “You lie. Nothing could have saved Magdalida. Dr. Howard said so himself.”
The midwife ran her hands over her shoulders where Juan had gripped them. “It’s the truth. Magdalida died because I couldn’t get her to deliver all of the afterbirth. Dr. Howard is Padua trained. He wouldn’t have been aware of the new up-time medical knowledge. The up-time technique uses special tools to deliver the remaining afterbirth.” She reached out a hand and rested it gently on Juan’s shoulder. “I’ve just used the technique in a case similar to Magdalida’s, and it stopped the bleeding.”
Juan swallowed bile and stared at Mar’a. She had no reason to lie. A simple procedure—and surely it had to be simple if the up-timers could teach it to Mar’a—could have saved his wife. He could feel tears starting to run down his face.
A comforting arm went around his shoulders and directed his head into Mar’a’s ample bosom, and he cried the tears that hadn’t come three years ago.
Juana looked up when her eldest son entered the room. “Juan, you’ve met Anna Mar’a, haven’t you?”
Juan approached to greet Anna Mar’a, and Juana saw his face clearly for the first time. “Is there something the matter?” Then she remembered he’d said he was going to visit the injured airmen at the clinic. “Has something happened to Don Fernando?”
Juan shook his head. “No. He and the student he was training are doing well.”
She rose from her chair and reached up to touch the stains on her son’s fashionable, wide, lace-edged collar. It was damp. There were smeared tear tracks running down his face—as if Juan had used his hands to wipe them away. Juana licked the end of her handkerchief and scrubbed at the tracks. “Then why have you been crying?”
“I ran into Mar’a the midwife at the clinic. She said . . . ” Juan hiccupped and gently pushed Juana away, “that the up-timers have taught her a technique that could have saved Magdalida.” The tears started flowing and Juan rushed off.
“Is everything all right?” Anna Mar’a asked after Juan left the room.
Juana stared after Juan. “I think that maybe everything is finally all right. Juan didn’t cry after Magdalida died. I think he might have finally started to let her go.”
Anna Mar’a perked up. “Do you think we should arrange for him to meet Catalina again?”
“She is still interested?” Juana asked, a little surprised, given the way Juan had run away from their first attempt to introduce them.
Anna Mar’a nodded. “Maybe next week . . . “
“No.” Juana shook her head. “That is much too soon. No, we need to give Juan time.”
“Catalina could lose interest if she has to wait too long.”
“Give me a month, with Catalina accompanying you on visits. If during her visits she was to make friends with Isabel and Eduardo, then they will talk about their new friend.”
“And then we arrange for Catalina to be at church when Juan takes the children, and they run to greet her after the service . . . “
“That would be a little too obvious,” Juana said. “We need to be a little more subtle. The children need to talk to Juan about their new friend.”
“And then we arrange for Catalina to be at church when Juan takes the children and they run to greet her after the service.”
Juana grinned at her friend. Once she had an idea in her head she hung onto it like a dog with a bone. “Something like that.”