January 1634, Grantville

Phillip “Lips” Kastenmayer stood despondently in front of the window, gazing at the unobtainable fashions on display. The mannequin that most drew his attention was dressed in T-shirt, leather jacket, blue jeans, and black leather boots—just like the hero in the movie he’d just seen. There was no price displayed, but then there wouldn’t be, because those clothes were authentic up-time fashions, and if you had to ask, you couldn’t afford them.

He stepped back so he could see his reflection in the window. Anything less like what was on display was hard to imagine. He was dressed in the uniform Mama believed suitable for the student son of a Lutheran pastor. It was drab, uninspiring, but long-lasting. So long-lasting that he expected to still be wearing them when he graduated from university.

He thrust his thumbs through his belt—how much he’d love to be able to thrust them into the pockets of his own pair of jeans or leather jacket—but that was just a dream. Papa could barely afford to send him and his brothers to university, let alone splash out on expensive up-time fashions. With a final sad glance at the fashions in the window, he set off on the five mile walk home.

May, 1635, the rectory, St. Martin’s in the Field, South of Rudolstadt

Lips was happy that his sister was getting married, but he wasn’t happy that he had to dress up just because she was getting married.

“Stand still,” Salome Piscatora, his mama, demanded as she tried to straighten his collar.

Lips did as he was told while Mama dusted down his freshly starched collar—he could already feel it starting to itch. Then he felt her pulling a brush through his hair. Eventually he was tidy enough, and she sent him off to stand in a corner with his younger brother.

“What’s the guy Dina’s marrying like?” He asked Ernst, who’d at least met the man Dina was marrying.

Ernst shrugged. “He’s old, and he’s got the weirdest taste in clothes, but Dina seems happy.”

That didn’t sound good. Lips knew the man had agreed to board him and his brothers while they attended university in Jena, but it did sort of sound like Dina was selling herself to support the family.

“Here he comes now.”

Lips followed Ernst’s gaze, and just about died of shock. He’d been given the impression that Dina’s betrothed was an employee at HDG Laboratories. “What did you say he did in Jena?”

“Papa said he’s in charge of training and supervising the laborants.” Ernst grinned. “Papa’s hoping Dina might encourage Phillip to seek promotion from his wealthy relative.”

“Yeah, right,” Lips muttered as he watched the man approach.

“Phillip, this is my son Phillip, although we usually call him Lips,” Ludwig Kastenmayer said.

Lips hastily put out his hand to shake the one being offered. “A pleasure to meet you, Phillip.”


“Joseph, have you met Dina’s betrothed?” Lips asked when he ran his older brother to ground, in the library, reading some boring law text.

“He seems a good enough man. No interest in the law, of course.”

“But don’t you know who he is?”

“Papa told you who he is, or weren’t you listening, as usual?”

“You don’t understand. Dina is marrying Dr. Gribbleflotz.”

“Oh, does Phillip have a doctorate? Do you know where from?”

Lips stared at his brother. How could he not understand? “Joseph, Dina’s betrothed is the Dr. Gribbleflotz. He doesn’t just work at HDG Laboratories. He is HDG Laboratories.” The stunned look on his brother’s face told Lips that he’d finally made his point.

The Dr. Gribbleflotz is marrying our Dina?” Joseph managed to splutter.

“Not only is she marrying Dr. Gribbleflotz, but nobody in the family seems to know who he is.”

“Uncle Arnold vouches for him,” Joseph said.

“Well, that’s someone who knows who Dina’s marrying.”

“Why would someone as rich as Dr. Gribbleflotz want to marry Dina?”

That question stumped Lips. It wasn’t that Dina was ugly, or stupid, or even too old. It was the fact that everyone knew money married money. It certainly didn’t marry the dowerless daughter of a poor pastor. “You don’t suppose he fell in love with Dina?”

“Dina’s very . . . ” Joseph screwed up his nose and shrugged.

Lips felt exactly the same. Dina was a great sister, but what did she have to attract the attention of a wealthy man like Dr. Gribbleflotz?

Lips remained doubtful about his sister’s marrying Dr. Gribbleflotz right up to the minute, soon after the exchange of vows, when she launched herself into her husband’s arms. There was a sparkle in her eyes he hadn’t seen for years, and she was glowing. Her new husband looked just as happy.

October, Jena

“Lips, you have to save me,” Dina implored.

Lips shot out of his chair and rushed over to his sister. “What’s the matter?”

“Someone’s given Phillip books on bringing up babies.”

Lips whistled. That could be serious. “Has he said anything?”

“Not yet, but you know what Phillip’s like, and I don’t want him making a project out of my babies.”

“Babies?” Lips knew Dina was pregnant, but that seemed to suggest more than one.

Dina smiled and ran a hand over her belly. “Yes, Dr. Shipley says I’m carrying twins. She let me listen to their heartbeats.”

Lips ignored the dreamy look on his sister’s face and concentrated on dealing with her problem. “What is it you want me to do?”

“I need you to approach Phillip and pretend an interest in alchemy. Maybe teaching you what he knows will stop him concentrating on me and the babies.” She slumped. “Why did he have to pick now to decide that there was something wrong with the pyramid power thing?”

Lips hugged his sister. He’d always been interested in the new science, and now, instead of sneaking into the laboratories and seminars, he could do it openly, firm in the knowledge that Dina would support him if Mama and Papa asked questions.

November, Jena


Lips stared at the poster of a young woman wearing nothing but strategically placed whipped cream, and wondered, how did they do it? It was definitely a photograph. He’d seen several, including photographs from Dina and Phillip’s wedding, so he knew what cameras could do. Except that the poster was in color, and realistic color at that. He went in search of the gatekeeper to up-time knowledge.

He found him in his office, with Frau Mittelhausen, Frau Beier, and Dina. “Oh, I’m sorry,” Lips said as he hastily backed out of the room.

“What is it, Lips,” Dina asked.

“I just wanted to ask Phillip something, but it can wait.”

“We aren’t doing anything important, just reviewing the new advertising campaign for Sal Vin Betula.”

Lips struggled to stop the grin that statement elicited from turning into a smirk. It had been Phillip’s Sal Vin Betula, better known in the market as Dr. Gribbleflotz’ Little Blue Pills of Happiness, that had got him into selling revitalizing fluid. Some up-timer had mistaken his blue aspirin pills for some up-time sex drug. “Maybe you should try something like Paxton’s poster.”

“What poster would that be?” Phillip asked.

“Are you talking about the poster of the female wearing nothing but revitalizing cream?” Frau Mittelhausen asked.

“That’s the one,” Lips said. “Phillip, do you know how they did it?”

“Did what?”

“You haven’t seen the poster?”

Phillip shook his head.

“Well, it’s a color poster, but it’s not block color like most posters are. The color is so realistic; it’s like a photograph out of an up-time book.”

“That certainly bears looking at. Where is this poster?”

“In the front window of Vorkeuffer’s,” Lips said, naming a local store that had been nothing much more than a common grocery store four years ago, and was now the largest general store in Jena, all on the back of selling the products of HDG Laboratories.

Phillip pushed back his chair. “If you will all excuse me, I must have a look at this poster Lips is so excited about.”

“I’m coming too,” Dina insisted, as she too pushed back her chair.


December 1635, Prague, capital of Bohemia


“I was invited in to record the king’s aura yesterday,” Zacharias Held told his colleague. Well, more bragged, really, but serving the king was surely something to brag about.

Johann Dent whistled. “How did you manage that?”

“Talent, Johann, pure talent.”

Johann snorted. “More likely you found out who to pay. So, is the king as ill as we hear?”

Zacharias nodded. “I think he’s in a very bad way, but that dragon guarding him refused to let me take a Kirlian image of his head. How does she expect me to know how to rebalance his aura if I can’t see it properly?”

“So you only got a hand?”

“And just the left one at that.”

“You can’t tell much from the weaker hand. Didn’t you explain?”

“In front of the king? With his dragon glaring at me? Of course I didn’t.” Zacharias pulled out a Kirlian photograph and passed it over to Johann. “Have a look at that. I think he definitely needs an aluminum bracelet to balance the aura, but it also needs a red gemstone in a number three cut.”

“Oh, dear. You do have a problem.”

Zacharias ignored the smug smile on Johann’s face. He was merely jealous that he hadn’t been invited to examine the king. However, Johann did have a point. Both of them knew, from Aural Balance 101, that you didn’t mix aluminum metal with gems containing aluminum.

“You can’t use glass for the king.”

“No,” Zacharias agreed. One didn’t use glass for the king, not even if you were adding gold to it to make a lovely ruby red.

“And rubies are just aluminum oxide, after all. Spinels and tourmaline are out, too. But what about a carbuncle?”

“No. All red garnets have aluminum in the B location, all the ones with something else are green or black.”

“Then I guess you need see if Roth’s can suggest anything,” Johann said.

HDG Laboratories, Jena

Lips helped his brother-in-law set up his latest creation—a three-color camera-obscura. Not that Phillip was laying claim to the idea for the machine. That had been someone at Schmucker and Schwentzel, in Rudolstadt. After seeing the poster for Paxton’s Revitalizing Cream, Phillip had been as interested as Lips in learning how it was done. And Lips had learned just how powerful his brother-in-law was, although to be fair, Phillip didn’t seem to be aware of his power.

No sooner had Phillip asked Paxton’s how the poster had been produced, than he’d been directed to Schmucker and Schwentzel. The fact that Paxton’s Revitalizing Cream was riding on the coattails of Phillip’s revitalizing fluid probably had something to do with the friendly response to his inquiries.

The printers hadn’t been as obeisant when Phillip and Lips turned up to ask questions, but they’d been more than willing to describe their technique—maybe the fact the film and photographic chemicals they were using all came from one of the HDG facilities had something to do with it. Not that Lips was feeling cynical.

The visit had seen the commissioning of a smaller version of Schmucker and Schwentzel’s camera. The camera for Phillip had been treated as a rush job, and been delivered just yesterday. Lips, again not feeling particularly cynical, wondered how much Phillip was going to be charged, because none of the people they dealt with that day had mentioned anything as common as price. He made a mental note to ask Frau Mittelhausen how much everything had cost.

“It would be so much easier if we had color film,” Lips said. Certainly Phillip’s black and white camera was nowhere near as finicky to set up.

“It would, but there have been difficulties replicating the Autochrome process.”

The Autochrome process used starch grains dyed in red, green and blue, randomly distributed over a photosensitive emulsion. Or at least that’s what the instructions in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica said. “Do you know what is wrong?”

“It is obvious that there is some step, some additional chemical or process missing from the published directions, so we will do what we always do.”

“And that is?” Lips asked.

“Revert to basic principles. Take what we know, and try adding things to the known until we discover the unknown.”

That didn’t fit with the basic principles of chemistry he’d picked up in the few up-time science classes he’d managed to sneak into back in Grantville. Those had suggested a much more theoretical approach. “Does that work?”

“It is how I discovered how to make the Amazing Essence of Fire Tablets the up-time chemists claimed couldn’t be made.” Phillip pulled the camera’s blackout cloth over his head.

Yes, well, Lips knew all about those fire tablets. If you knew what you were doing, and Hans Saltzman, Phillip’s trusted personal laborant of nearly five years, certainly did know, you could turn those fire tablets into high explosive. It had been interesting watching Hans make up some of the explosive and then detonate it on a farm outside Jena’s walls. For such a small amount of explosive, it had made a very big hole. But it was the first time he’d heard that the up-timers hadn’t believed it was possible to make the precursor. Maybe there was something to Phillip’s approach to research that was better than the up-timer science.

Phillip reappeared from under the blackout cloth and closed the shutter before opening the slides on the film cassettes. “Everything is ready. If you would like to set the experiment in motion.”

Lips took the hint and turned off the lights before initiating the flame test. Moments later the spectral lines were visible on the detector. Phillip opened the shutter, and Lips ensured the flame had a steady supply of prepared loops for the twenty-second exposure.


Lips sat beside Phillip as he studied the color image projected onto the screen. The use of colored filters meant that the sets of black and white photographs taken by the three-color camera could be projected onto a screen to form a single color image. On the screen in front of him was a nearly perfect record of the spectral lines produced in the flame test.

“Well, that seems to have worked,” Phillip said.

“You sound surprised?”

“Of course I’m surprised. Nothing ever works the first time.”

“But Schmucker and Schwentzel’s camera worked, so why shouldn’t yours?”

Phillip looked up and shook his head. “The voice of someone who has not yet run into the great Murphy.” He looked Lips directly in the eyes. “If anything can go wrong, it will. Remember that, Lips. Remember that.”

January 1636, Prague

There was a hubbub of conversation in the meeting room of the Prague chapter of the Society of Aural Investigators, the professional body responsible for maintaining the standards of the profession. Zacharias carried his steaming mug of Tincture of Cacao—the beverage the society had virtually made its own—to the table where Johann was sitting. “Sorry I’m late, but some fool forgot to refill the Wetmore’s reservoir, and it ran out of water in the middle of a calculation. I had to refill the reservoir and bleed the whole thing before I could do anything.”

“Another reading for the king?” Johann asked.

“Yes.” Zacharias was proud of himself. He hadn’t come across as overly smug. As Aural Investigator to the king, he was someone—and the increase in business from people who wanted the king’s aural investigator to read their aura didn’t hurt.

“Did you manage to find yourself a red gemstone for the bracelet?”

“Yes, Roth’s had the perfect red gemstone—a Mexican opal. I had them cut and set it in the bracelet.”

“Did it work?”

“It was the calculations based on the bracelet that kept me so long.” He took out a notebook, opened it to the right page, and passed it to Johann. “Have a look. The king should be highly impressed when I tell him how much closer to the ideal state his aura is.”

Johann skimmed over the numbers before handing the notebook back. “Of course, it would be a lot better if you could record the aura in color.”

“Of course it would be easier, but nobody is doing color . . . ” Zacharias stopped because Johann was shaking his head. “Someone is?”

“If you’d been here earlier you would have heard Zänkel reading from the latest issue of the Proceedings of the HDG Laboratories. It has a centerfold of color photographs from one of the doctor’s experiments.”

“What?” Zacharias was horrified that he’d missed such news. He stood and searched the tables for a copy of the Proceedings. Sighting one, he hastened over and secured a copy. He knew he had the right issue as soon as he opened it. There was a centerfold in high-quality white paper with color images of spectral lines from flame tests. He hastened back to Johann and sat down. “Does he say how he does it?”

“Would you?” Johann asked.

“No.” Of course he wouldn’t give away information like that. It’d be worth a fortune. He hastily skimmed through the articles in the journal, looking for anything that might cast light on the question of how it was done, and more importantly, how long it would be before the technique was available for everyday use.

“You can stop hunting. Everyone has already looked, and there is nothing about the method in that issue.”

Zacharias quickly checked the publication date—January, 1636. The Proceedings were published three times a year, so that meant the next issue wouldn’t be out until May. “A letter to the doctor asking about the technique’s application to Kirlian imaging is definitely indicated.”

“Already decided while you were playing with the aqualator,” Johann said. “Martin Zänkel has been told to write a letter on behalf of the chapter.”

“We won’t be the only chapter writing, you know,” Zacharias pointed out.

“Of course not. But if we don’t send a letter the doctor won’t know we’re interested in knowing the answer. I expect he’ll put together a form letter and send it out to anybody who inquires.”

February, Jena

Lips was happily sitting in the sun reading one of Phillip’s up-time science textbooks when his light was suddenly cut off. He looked up to see the looming shapes of Fraus Beier and Mittelhausen, and Hans Saltzman blocking out the sun.

“See, he is perfect for the job,” Hans said.

“Just because he reads the doctor’s books doesn’t mean he understands them,” Frau Beier said.

Lips used a bookmark to mark where he was and shut the book. “What job?”

“The doctor is distracted by Frau Kastenmayerin’s pregnancy, and is not giving his correspondence the attention it needs,” Frau Beier said.

“You want me to go through Phillip’s mail?”

“Only the letters that raise scientific concerns,” Frau Mittelhausen said. “I will continue to manage the business correspondence.”

“But why me? Why not Hans? He knows much more about the new science than I do.”

“Because someone has to run the laboratories while the doctor is distracted, and besides, your Latin is much better than mine.”

“What is it I’m supposed to do?”

“It is a very difficult task. Frau Beier or I would have sent Frau Hardesty a polite letter when she mistook the Sal Vin Betula for an up-time treatment for impotentia coeundi. The doctor saw an opportunity. You must take the doctor’s place looking for opportunities.”

“But how am I supposed to do that? How does Phillip decide whether or not something is an opportunity or not?” Lips got three matching shrugs in reply.

“Now you see why I don’t want the job,” Hans said


Lips had thought the letters asking about color Kirlian photography lacked any possible opportunity for the company, but he had passed them onto Phillip anyway. There had been a feeling, coming mostly from Dina, that anything that could distract Phillip had to be tried.

Phillip’s reaction hadn’t been what Lips had expected. Instead of intensifying the efforts to succeed with Autochrome, Phillip had decided to try to photograph Kirlian images with his special camera.

Lips had provided the hand for the image, and it was still stinging as he sat down in the projection room to see what the Kirlian image looked like.

It was a major disappointment. The screen was almost black. The only light showing on the screen was from scratches on the negatives. Phillip walked up to the image for a closer look. “Nothing! If we believed this image, we would be forced to conclude that your hand completely lacks an aura.”

“Perhaps the camera was too far away to detect the discharges?”

Phillip studied the projected image for a few moments before shaking his head. “No, it seems my brilliant idea of using the three-color camera to record a Kirlian image has failed. We need to try something different.”

Lips moved to the windows and pulled open the heavy drapes. “What about replacing the paper with the film?” he said over his shoulder.

“Well, the paper we left in the usual place to produce a Kirlian image for comparison purposes certainly recorded an image. But the film is just black and white, and we are trying to produce a color image.”

“What if we used filters?”

“We have three filters, unless you are hoping to combine plates from three separate Kirlian images . . . ”

Lips realized Phillip was thinking of registering problems. Unless the photos exactly overlapped, the image just wouldn’t work, and layering the filters would just stop light getting through to the lower plates.

“No, Lips, what we need is plates sensitive to one or other of the primary colors.”

“Isn’t that what we’re trying to do with the Autochrome?”

“Not quite. With the Autochrome, we are trying to make a single plate sensitive to each of the primary colors, whereas what I’m thinking is we sensitize three plates, each to a different color.”


They tried it with glass negatives first, because that’s what they had for the camera. But that hadn’t worked. The glass was acting as an insulator, and only the top plate registered anything. That had meant an urgent order had to be sent out for some cellulose acetate sheet-film. Fortunately, there had been a photographer in Jena who had some.

Phillip held the last of the three still dripping negatives up to the red safety-light, and smiled. “We have an image on all three sheets. Now all we have to do is sensitize each sheet of film to a different color.”

“How are you planning on doing that?” Lips asked.

“We send an order to Michael for some sheet cellulose acetate that we can apply our own, custom, emulsions onto. And we experiment until we have three dyed plates that give us a color image.

March, Jena

Lips arrived home from lectures to a surprise. The up-timer chemical engineer Phillip had been waiting for had finally arrived.

“Lips, this is Lori Drahuta, she’ll be staying in the apartment while she decides whether or not she wants to work at HDG Laboratories,” Hans said.

Lips looked enviously at the young woman. She was wearing fancy leather boots, blue jeans, a t-shirt with a fancy design on it, and a denim jacket. “Nice t-shirt.”

Lori looked down at the image of St. George defeating a wild dog on her t-shirt. “It’s my own design.”

“How do you get the image onto the material? Did you paint it?”

“You can, but this is silk-screen. I produced a number of them as a fundraiser for the rabies awareness program.”

That word sent a shiver through Lips. Rabies was a disease to be feared, even if the up-timers did have a treatment for it. “Is it the same as wood-block printing?”

“No. If you’re interested, I can show you how it’s done.”

“Yes, please.” Lips was definitely interested. He had visions of printing a t-shirt with the image of his hero. If he couldn’t afford the jeans and jacket, he could at least afford a printed t-shirt.


Lips had expected to dine alone, again. His brother was visiting friends, while Phillip was in Grantville with Dina, who’d given birth to a boy and a girl in the early hours of the twenty-ninth of February, and they were spending a few days in Grantville. Instead, he found the new girl sitting at the table. There was a moment of shock, then he remembered his duties as host. “Good evening, Frau Drahuta.”

“Please, make it Lori. And what do I call you?”

My name is Phillip, but family call me Lips, Lori.”

“And I’m family?”

“We certainly hope you will join the family here at HDG Laboratories.”

“Well, I hope I can fit in, although I was expecting to see Dr. Phil. Whoops!’ Lori clapped her hands over her mouth. “Sorry, that just slipped out.”

“I haven’t heard that name for Phillip before, where did you hear it?”

“Ted and Tracy Kubiak. Apparently Ted started it. But it’s not a sign of disrespect, honest. It’s just the American tendency to give people nicknames, and well, back up-time there was some guy on TV who went by the moniker of Dr. Phil.”

“Dr Phil.” Lips tried it on his tongue. It came naturally. Almost more naturally than Phillip, and certainly much easier than Dr. Gribbleflotz, which, with his experience of up-timers, they would have found a bit of a tongue twister. “Why haven’t I heard it before?”

“I think it’s just a pet name for Dr. Gribbleflotz within a tight group in the Kubiak family.”

“Well, I think Phillip would be happy for you to call him Dr. Phil.”

“I think I’ll stick to Dr. Gribbleflotz until I get to know him better.

Late March, Jena

Phillip, Dina, and the babies, Jon and Salome, had arrived back in Jena to a hideous surprise. Phillip’s mother, recently widowed—again—had turned up. And she wasn’t a very nice person. Lips had tried to send a message before Phillip left Grantville, but he’d just missed him. What should have been a joyous homecoming had been ruined by Maria Elisabeth Bombast von Neuburg.

Lips heard the heavy footsteps of Phillip’s mother ringing through the apartment and tried to find somewhere to hide. Maria Elisabeth was an equal opportunity critic, and everybody was a legitimate target. Except for Lori Drahuta, who was an up-timer, and thus almost a noble.

Maria Elisabeth burst into the room in all her painted glory. Dressed in age inappropriate colors and styles, and with enough white-lead on her face to sink one of the new ironclads, she was a sight to terrify even the bravest. Lips backed further into the corner he’d found when Phillip’s mother burst in. She looked angry, again.

“I don’t know how I’m going to hold up my head,” she said as she waved a letter under Phillip’s nose. “Margaretha’s Friedrich, such a hard working and successful boy, is now the personal alchemist to Ulrich of Ostfriesland.” She glared at Phillip. “Why can’t you have a noble patron?” she demanded. “Every great man needs a great patron, but not you, Theophrastus, you don’t even have a patron. You are self-employed.”

“I might be self-employed, but I am still a successful alchemist. And I am much more successful than Friedrich Weiser.”

Lips nodded. That was telling her. The Great Stoner was probably the only alchemist in the world anywhere near as successful as Phillip.

“Friedrich Weiser is a graduate of Tübingen. He not only has a Baccalaureus Artium, but he also has his Magister Artium. What do you have? Nothing, that’s what you have!”

“I have a doctorate,” Phillip spat out.

Maria Elisabeth was not impressed. “A doctorate from some university in the United Provinces nobody has heard of does not compare with degrees from Tübingen. Why, Tübingen has Johannes Kepler and Wilhelm Schickard amongst their alumni. Who does your university have?

Lips knew the answer to that one. Nobody. The institution awarding Phillip’s degree hadn’t existed until 1632.

“Kepler believed in astrology.”

There was outrage in Phillip’s voice. His great grandfather, Paracelsus, hadn’t believed in astrology, so neither did Phillip. Lips had heard him on the topic many times, which made one wonder how he felt about the use his Kirlian imagers were being put to.

“He was imperial mathematician to Emperor Rudolph II, and if he was still living, would have the king of Bohemia as his patron.” Suddenly Maria slapped Phillip. It was no love tap; Phillip was knocked off balance. “You are a grave disappointment, Theophrastus. What would Grandfather think?”

Lips winced, not so much at the slap, but at the last bit of spleen Phillip’s mother had vented before she stalked out. That had been a low blow. Paracelsus was Phillip’s hero, to be a disappointment to Paracelsus . . . Lips hurried out to get Dina. Phillip needed serious comforting.


“Something has to be done about that . . . ” Words failed Lips.

“Witch, bitch, cow,” Lori suggested.

Lips smiled. You could always trust Lori to lighten the mood. “Take your pick, but something has to be done. She’s making Phillip miserable.”

“And she is upsetting Frau Kastenmayerin,” Frau Mittelhausen said.

Lips hadn’t noticed any conflict between Dina and Phillip’s mother, but he wasn’t surprised. The daughter of a poor pastor wasn’t something she could boast about to her friends back in Neuburg.

“What about poison? I’m sure there are plenty of possibilities,” Lori suggested.

“It’s something to dream about, but it probably wouldn’t work. I mean, Lead oxide is supposed to be toxic, but you’ve seen how much she puts on.”

“That’s lead oxide? I thought it was zinc oxide. Maybe she hasn’t been using it for long,” Lori suggested.

“Phillip says she was painting her face with white lead even before he left for the school of mines in Fugger,” Lips said.

“Painting? She’s putting the stuff on with a trowel by the looks of it. But you’re right. If she hasn’t gone down with lead poisoning after all this time, what chance is there for success with anything else?”


Christoph Seidel stood outside the HDG Laboratories facility at Jena and wondered just how he was supposed to persuade Dr. Gribbleflotz, the owner of the facility before him, to move to Prague to serve as King Venceslas V Adalbertus of Bohemia’s personal aural investigator. Normally, such a question wouldn’t arise, as the social cachet of being treated by someone so close to the king would have the rich and powerful beating a way to his door, but Dr. Gribbleflotz wasn’t normal. Money alone was not going to entice him to make the move; he had more than enough of it already.

To make a poor case even worse, neither the Catholic courtiers nor the Calvinist courtiers were likely to show much enthusiasm for the king’s introducing a close personal adviser of the Lutheran persuasion into the court. Again, normally that would be a minor problem, just as long as the doctor wasn’t overly enthusiastic in his religion. However, Dr. Gribbleflotz had married a Lutheran pastor’s daughter, and was therefore undoubtedly personally deeply religious.


“Run that past me again,” Phillip asked his visitor. “You are asking me to move to Prague to act as the King of Bohemia’s aural investigator? Why me? Surely there are plenty of aural investigators already in Prague?”

Lips was busy holding on to his chair to stop himself jumping up and down. Here was the perfect opportunity for Phillip to finally silence his harping mother. He couldn’t believe the polite boredom in Phillip’s expression. He should be dancing on the table and swinging from the rafters, but no, he was just sitting there listening with polite disinterest.

“But none of them are able to do color.” Christoph raised a hand and snapped his fingers. One of the servants who’d accompanied him stepped forward and opened a large leather bag before stepping back. Christoph started to stack bundles of USE paper money on the table. “One month’s stipend in advance.” Then he started on another pile. “And enough to cover your removal expenses.”

Lips had virtually no experience of handling money, and certainly no experience with the quantities the man had just placed on Phillip’s desk. However, he had learned how to estimate the mass of objects based on their size and composition. Each pile looked like half a kilogram of paper, and if the rest of the bills in the piles were the same denomination as those on the top, then each bundle represented fifty thousand dollars. He licked his suddenly dry lips. Even a small part of one of those piles would be enough to buy the clothes of his dreams.

“I must consult my wife,” Phillip said.

Lips wasn’t the only shocked face in the room when Phillip walked out. There was a hundred thousand dollars on that desk and Phillip had completely ignored it. Well, Lips knew his job as host in Phillip’s absence. “Would you like some refreshments while we await Dr. Gribbleflotz’ return?”


“I don’t understand,” Lori protested. “I thought Dr. Phil didn’t believe in Kirlian Image Interpretation.”

Lips glanced over at Hans, who’d been sticking to the up-timer like glue. He’d jerked back, making protection from evil hand-signs. Lips settled for gently shaking his head and looking very disappointed, very much like one of his teachers when he’d failed to grasp a concept.

“Well, that’s what he told me,” Lori said, gesturing to Hans. “And now you’re saying he’s planning to drop everything he’s got going here in Jena and high-tail it to Prague to be the personal aural investigator to some king. How can he do that if he doesn’t believe in it?”

“HDG Laboratories will continue to operate. Hans will still be here, and my brother Martin will take over Frau Mittelhausen’s job of running the commercial side of the business.”

“Still,” Lori said, “why would he want to give all this up to move to Prague?”

“Frau Bombast,” Hans said.

Lips nodded. “That’s right, Phillip’s mother. It’s especially attractive because the king who is employing Phillip used to employ Johannes Kepler. And more importantly, when he employed Kepler he was only a general, but now, of course, he is a king.”

“What’s so important about working for a king?” Lori asked.

“Herr Weiser’s patron is merely a Graf,” Hans said.

“Oh, one-upmanship and social climbing, I wouldn’t have thought Dr. Phil was overly interested in doing that?”

“But his mother is. All will be forgiven if her son has a king for a patron, and more importantly, Frau Bombast will return home a happy woman,” Lips said.

“It seems a bit extreme just to get rid of one woman,” Lori said.

“Frau Bombast is no ordinary woman. Almost anything is to be considered when the reward is getting rid of that female,” Hans said.

“How long do you think it’ll take before she finds out?” Lori asked.

“Not very long,” Hans said. “Someone, who shall remain nameless, but is in this room, escorted Herr Seidel’s party to the inn where Frau Bombast is residing.”

Lips modestly burnished his nails. That had been a brainwave. No doubt the men would talk about their purpose in Jena. “The story should be all around the city by morning.”

“Well, if it is, you’d better be ready to reassure all the people who depend on Dr. Phil,” Lori said. “They’ll probably worry that the business will shut down if he isn’t here.”

That was something Lips hadn’t thought of. He rose from the table. “I’d better have a few words with Frau Mittelhausen. She’ll probably send a few of the girls shopping.”

“How does sending some of the girls shopping reassure anybody?” Lori demanded.

“Women gossip,” Lips said, before hastily leaving the room.

Next day

Lips made sure he had a prime spot when Frau Bombast, as expected, stormed in on the family without knocking. Fortunately, her heavy-footed stride gave them some warning.

“What is this I hear?” Maria Elisabeth Bombast demanded in her most strident voice.

Phillip appeared calm as he finished chewing the food in his mouth, took a sip of herbal tea, and finally smiled at his mama as he lowered his cup. “What is it you’ve heard, Mama Dearest?”

“I wish you wouldn’t call me that, Theophrastus. You know I don’t like it.”

“Of course, Mama Dearest. Now, what is it that brings you visiting at such an early hour?”

But Maria Elisabeth had been distracted. She pointed an accusing finger at Dina. “Why is she suckling that child? The wife of a king’s advisor should have a wet nurse.”

“I haven’t signed the contract yet.”

Maria Elisabeth turned, aghast. “Not signed it yet? You can’t be thinking of refusing to enter a king’s service? You wouldn’t do that to your poor mama. How will I be able to hold up my head when I return home?”

Success, she was going home. “I’m sure Phillip has every intention of signing, Frau Bombast. However, it is only sensible to have a lawyer check the contract first,” Lips said.

A few days later

Lips stared at the money being counted out in front of him. “What is that for?” he asked.

“It is your pay for handling Dr. Gribbleflotz’ correspondence,” Frau Mittelhausen said.

He licked his lips and carefully counted the USE bank bills to reassure himself just how much there was there. In his mind’s eye he could see a shop in Grantville, with blue jeans, t-shirt, and a leather jacket.

“Don’t spend it all at once, Lips. That has to last you until next month,” Frau Mittelhausen warned.

That did surprise Lips. He hadn’t expected to get paid for doing Phillip’s correspondence, and now that Phillip was no longer distracted by Dina’s pregnancy, surely he wouldn’t continue to do it. “I won’t.”

“But I bet he knows what he wants to spend some of it on,” Lori said.

A smile twitched at Lips’ lips. “I want some blue jeans, and a leather jacket, and . . . ” memory failed him. He couldn’t remember everything his screen hero had worn in that movie.

“If you want to buy jeans, I might be able to help.”

“I don’t want girl’s jeans,” Lips protested.

“Don’t worry. I wasn’t going to offer you any of mine, but there’s bound to be someone in my family about your size who could use the money. Do you have any particular style in mind?”

Lips hadn’t realized jeans came in different styles. He shrugged.

“Well, you must have an idea. Where did you see the ones you like?”

“It was in a movie,” Lips admitted.

Lori shook her head. “It’s like pulling teeth. What movie?”

Rebel without a Cause.”

“Ahhhh! You see yourself as James Dean.” Lori nodded. “You’ll need a haircut. I don’t suppose anybody is making hair cream, are they?”

“Hair cream?”

April, Prague

Phillip burst into the kitchen still in dishabille, brandishing a collar. “I can’t wear this. I’m supposed to be meeting the king.”

“What is wrong with the collar, Doctor?” Frau Mittelhausen asked.

“The starch is showing.” Phillip showed where white particles of starch showed up against the brilliant lime-green fabric. “I can’t wear that to see the king. Why hasn’t the laundry been using dyed starch?”

“Let me see what I can do.” Frau Mittelhausen grabbed the collar and disappeared.

Lips studied Phillip. His brother-in-law was resplendent in a doublet and knee breeches, with silk stockings and short boots. That was basically the standard garb for meeting important people, however, Phillip had gone to town in his choice of colors. The doublet was an interesting shade of red, with an under-shirt in lime green visible through the slashed sleeves. The stockings were a pale pink, and the boots, well, there was no single dominant color. Lori Drahuta would have broken down laughing at the sight, but Lips was already aware that the colors, if not Phillip’s combinations, were starting to be seen around Prague.

Frau Mittelhausen arrived back with the repaired collar and fitted it around Phillip’s neck. Seconds later they were left in peace.

“What is dyed starch?” Frau Mittelhausen asked.

“It’s from the Autochrome experiments. Phillip has been trying to rediscover how the up-timers made color photographs using dyed starch particles scattered randomly over a photographic plate.” Suddenly Lips’ thought process kicked him. “Frau Mittelhausen, is white starch on collars much of a problem?”

“Only on colored collars. Oh!”

Lips nodded. Frau Mittelhausen had reached the same conclusion he had. White starch on white collars wouldn’t be a problem, but with people copying Phillip and buying colored collars, surely they too were having problems with the white starch ruining the desired effect. He rose from his chair. “If you need me, I’ll be in the laboratory doing some research.”

“I’ll get you some old collars to experiment with.”

May, Prague

Lips sat watching Phillip pacing around his laboratory in the Mihulka Tower. He’d been acting strangely since he returned from his latest meeting with the king.

“What’s bothering you, Phillip?” he asked.

“Dr Stone agrees that the king’s color is blue,” Phillip muttered.

“But that’s impossible, isn’t it?”

“I thought so. I thought that Kurt Beta’s Kirlian image interpretation ideas were impossible, but if Dr. Stone says the king’s aura is blue, just like the color Kirlian image suggests, then that means Kirlian image interpretation is a valid science.” He paused to correct himself. “More correctly, it is a poor cousin to the real science of Chakras.”

“What are Chakras?”

Phillip sent Lips a wry grin. “I’m not overly sure myself. It seems to be some technique that only Dr. Stone and his assistant, Guptah Rai Singh, are familiar with.”

“Are you going to ask him to speak about the Chakras at one of your seminars?”

“In the fullness of time, when I have had a chance to learn more about them. But meanwhile, I have a problem. If aural investigating is valid science, then I may have given up on invigorating the Quinta Essentia of the Human Humors too soon.”

“I wonder what Dr. Stone knows about pyramid power?” Lips asked.

“I can’t ask the Great Stoner about pyramid power. No, I’ll just have to recommence my research based on the new information.”

Lips left Phillip to his ruminating and retired to the library, where he dug out the latest copy of the Grantville Genealogy Club’s Who’s Who of Grantville Up-timers, and spent a fruitless couple of hours looking for someone named Guptah Rai Singh.

A few days later


Lips was in the laboratory furthering his experiments with dyed starch and starched collars when Phillip walked in.

“What’s that you’ve got there?”

“Dyed starch for collars, Phillip. Nobody in Prague has been doing any research on dyed starch, so I thought I’d try it.”

“And does it work?”

“Oh, yes.” Lips held up a dyed collar. “This is just experimenting in different shades. Thomas has a production line going, and we’re already selling it in the Dr. Gribbleflotz Emporium of Natural Wonders.”

“I don’t think the store was a good idea,” Phillip muttered.

“But why not? It’s doing amazing business.”

“Because the king saw one of Paxton’s posters.”

“I hope he wasn’t offended?”

“No, much worse,” Phillip said. “The king would like me to develop color photography.”

“Ouch, did you tell him about the problems we are having with Autochrome?”

“One does not tell one’s patron more than he needs to know. Besides, a patron is never interested in problems; a patron is only ever interested in results.”

Lips brushed Phillip’s patronizing hand from the top of his head. “So we get back to work on Autochrome?”

“No, we have left Hans working hard on that problem back in Jena. If he, with the resources at his command, hasn’t discovered the solution yet, then the two of us working together won’t succeed. No, we need to think outside the box.”

“What is it the king wants?”

“The king wants to be able to take a photograph of his son and hang it across from his bed.”

“What about doing what Schmucker and Schwentzel do and just make printing plates?”

Phillip reached out a patronizing hand again, but Lips managed to avoid it. “Okay, what did I say wrong this time?” he asked.

“One pleases one’s patron not by replicating what has already been done, but by creating new and different things that he can show off. The printing process Schmucker and Schwentzel use is well known, and so not sufficiently impressive. What we need is something completely different.”

“But there are only so many ways to lay colors onto a surface to produce a color image.”

“The king doesn’t know that. We only have to have something sufficiently different from everything else that it has the appearance of being unique.”

Lips chewed over what Phillip was saying. He fingered the T-shirt he was wearing, and suddenly had an idea. “Phillip, are you familiar with staining slides so that cells are more visible under a microscope?”

“I’ve read about it, but never done it.”

“Well I have, in some classes in Grantville I sneaked into. You use dyes to stain the cells and various parts hold more or less dye so that you can see everything a lot better. Could I try something?”

“Of course.”

Lips made up some gelatin and poured a little into several watch-glasses. Then he added a different dye to each watch glass. Finally, he painted a design on several blank glass photographic plates, using one color per plate. When they dried he stacked them and held them up against the light.

“Very nice, now how do you paint a photographic image onto the plates?” Phillip asked.

“We don’t. We photo-transfer the images. Lori showed me how to do it when she taught me how to silk-screen print. What images do we have in three-color?”

“Just the spectral lines, but I’m sure Dina would be happy to have a photograph of her and the twins.”

A few days later

Lips shivered as he paced around the room. Phillip had been gone for hours. Surely it didn’t take this long to show the king the new Gribblechrome, as they’d decided to call their new process. He pulled his leather jacket closer round his body.

“You wouldn’t be so cold if you changed into something more suitable.”

He glared at his sister. Yes, his blue jeans, t-shirt, and leather jacket weren’t really warm enough in this room—why they couldn’t have central heating like they had in Jena he didn’t know—but what price comfort when he could look like James Dean? He ran a hand through his closely cropped locks. “Phillip should have been back ages ago.”

“He’s dealing with a king, Lips. Kings work to their own schedule. He might not even have seen Phillip yet.”

“Frau Kastenmayerin,” Frau Mittelhausen called as she burst into the room, “the Doctor, they’ve just carried him home on a stretcher.”

Dina erupted from her chair and ran off. Lips followed.


“Can you tell me what has happened?” Lips asked the man who’d accompanied the royal guardsmen who’d brought Phillip home.

“I’m not really sure myself, Herr Kastenmayer. You have to understand, I wasn’t there when it happened. However, it seems Dr. Gribbleflotz has been putting his health at considerable risk caring for the king. Dr. Stone’s assistant saved Dr. Gribbleflotz by performing emergency surgery to remove a Mishawaka.”

Lips wanted to ask what a Mishawaka was, but there were more important questions to ask. “Is the doctor going to be all right?”

“Oh, yes, Dr. Stone was most definite. The emergency surgery has removed the problem, although Dr. Gribbleflotz should be allowed to rest for several days.”

“How long will it be before the anesthesia wears off, do you know?” Lips asked, wondering what sort of pain Philip was likely to be suffering.

“There was no anesthesia. Actually, although there was a lot of blood, there appears to be no wound. A most amazing piece of surgery.”

Lips barely noticed when Christoph Seidel left. He was deep in thought, and his thoughts weren’t pretty. Something was wrong here. He needed the opinion of an up-timer he knew and trusted. That meant writing Lori a letter.


A week later and Lips had a reply, and it reinforced his disquiet over what had happened in the king’s chamber. Phillip hadn’t been able to tell him much. He’d just shown the king the Gribblechrome of Dina and the babies when Dr. Stone and his assistant—the assistant who wasn’t listed in the list of up-timers—had burst in saying something about his chakras fluctuating so dangerously the effect could be felt in the antechambers. Then there had been the surgery. Phillip had been adamant that Guptah Rai Singh had pulled something out of his body, even though there was no wound, or even a magically quickly healed scar.

Lori had called it “psychic surgery,” and Lips had been left in no doubt she didn’t approve. Corrupt fakery was amongst the more polite terms she had used to describe it. Which raised the question of why would Dr. Stone fake not only an illness—if fake surgery could cure a problem, surely the problem had to be fake—but also a cure?

Frau Mittelhausen appeared at the door to the office Lips was occupying. “A gentleman to see you.”

Lips shot to his feet. He wasn’t used to greeting anyone Frau Mittelhausen would class as a gentleman. The man who was guided in was a shock. Lips instantly recognized him as the king’s private secretary—although he’d heard that Heinrich Niemann was the king’s secretary the same as Frau Mittelhausen had been Phillip’s housekeeper. The title didn’t adequately describe just how much responsibility either of them had.

“Herr Niemann, how can I be of assistance?”

“I wish to convey the king’s regrets for Dr. Gribbleflotz’ illness and discuss a reward suitable for the risks Dr. Gribbleflotz has taken in caring for the king’s health. I do hope the good doctor is recovering?”

“Yes, Dr. Gribbleflotz is almost fully recovered. Please, have a seat. Can I get anything for you? Tea, coffee?”

“Could I have a Tincture of Cacao?”

Behind Heinrich, Lips saw Frau Mittelhausen nod. “Yes, that will be possible. Could I have one too, please, Frau Mittelhausen?” Lips returned to his chair behind the desk. “Did the king like the Gribblechrome?”

“Yes, he was most impressed. And to get a result so quickly after making the request! Most impressive.”

Lips clamped down on his tongue before he could say the first thing that entered his head. This was the client he was dealing with, not Phillip, or even one of the people who attended his seminars. Instead he smiled and shrugged. “Sometimes everything just comes together like that.”

“The king wishes to know how long it will be before Dr. Gribbleflotz will be able to create a Gribblechrome of his wife and son?”

“If we don’t ask too much of the doctor, I’m sure we could start the process any time His Majesty is ready. It will then take but three days to produce a finished Gribblechrome.”

“Then there is just the matter of a suitable reward for Dr. Gribbleflotz. Before he took ill the doctor was talking about his Society for Improving Natural Knowledge by Experimentation, and how they swapped ideas about the new sciences.”

Lips nodded. He knew all about Phillip’s group of natural philosophers. They spent half their time arguing over the most insignificant detail in the methodology of experiments they demonstrated.

“His Majesty believes that it would be beneficial to have a group of scientists keeping abreast of the latest developments in science and technology, and has decided that he will become patron of Dr. Gribbleflotz’ society, awarding it a royal charter. Funds and facilities will be provided to the society to conduct scientific experiments on anything the members wish, as long as the members are always available to advise the king on scientific matters. Do you feel Dr. Gribbleflotz would be interested in being the society’s president?”

“I believe Dr. Gribbleflotz would be most happy with such an offer.”

“Good, very good. And, of course, as Dr. Gribbleflotz would be the premier scientist in Bohemia, it would be fitting if he were awarded doctorates by the universities of Bohemia.”

“Karolinum, and the new university funded by Herr Roth?”

Heinrich smiled. “Actually, I was thinking of Karolinum and Olmütz, but I’m sure Herr Roth would feel offended if his new university wasn’t invited to similarly honor Dr. Gribbleflotz.”

After an hour of discussion, Lips escorted Herr Niemann back to his portion of the palace. He stopped at a window and stared out on the street. Revenge was going to be sweet, even if Phillip never knew he was getting revenge. He wondered how Dr. Stone would react to receiving an invitation to present a seminar on the chakras to the Royal Academy of Science in Prague, signed by the academy’s president for life, Dr. Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz.