Bamberg, April 1636

“You look like a bloated corpse,” Logan Sebastian muttered at the bag of hot air floating before her, “but an honest corpse.”

Logan stood on the closely-cropped grass of the Bamberg airfield, shouldering an overstuffed backpack with a lacrosse stick slung to it, a carefully-rolled poster clutched in one hand, and her other hand jammed into a pocket of her light coat. “God, you’re ugly. But you’re not pretentious. I guess I can handle that. You don’t pretend to be something you’re not.”

The engine attached to the motorized “balloon” hummed in an appropriately subdued manner. They didn’t whine and complain like those monstrosities all these down-timers, and quite a few up-timers, marveled at.

Had everyone forgotten the F-14 that quickly? Were 747s really just dreams now?

“At least they’re not calling this place an aerodrome.” Logan shook her head to free her ponytail, which had gotten pinched between her back and her pack. “Okay Logan, you’ve come this far. So it’s time to go all the way. It’s either these gas bags pretending to be dirigibles or . . . flying lawn mowers pretending to be real airplanes.

“God, I hate the seventeenth century. And it’s hating me straight back.”

A heavily-accented, but largely intelligible, voice interrupted her musings. “Can I help you?”

Logan Sebastian closed her eyes. “It depends.” Logan opened her eyes and offered a careful smile. “Are you looking for . . . pilots?”

“Well, that is depending on certain things. I am Antonio, Antonio Sorrento. I am the owner, part owner, of this balloon. It is incredible, is it not?”

“I saw you in Grantville.”

“I see,” Antonio said.

Logan could hear, in the tone of his voice, that he really didn’t see. She could tell when adults spoke to her—and when they spoke around her.

“At least you don’t call ’em dirigibles. The Goodyear blimp was a dirigible.”

“We are working on ‘dirigibles.’ Yes,” Antonio said proudly, “this balloon will, one day, be a true dirigible. We are progressing.”

Logan reminded herself to be careful; this man was proud of his toy and would not like her assessment of it—no matter how accurate. She’d have to do something she knew was not among her talents: watch her mouth. “It’s too windy up there. See the clouds? You’d have to stay low if you didn’t want to fight for every foot of forward distance.”

“I would predict that you could reach an altitude of a thousand feet and be productive.” He looked up, as if to confirm what Logan had said. “I was just training the ground crew. So what makes you think I am looking for pilots?”

Logan tried not to look at the man as if he were a moron. “Do I look stupid to you? Do you think . . .”

Logan closed her eyes and tried to regain her composure.

Antonio tried to reply, “I did not—”

“Of course, you’re looking for pilots. I’m certain you don’t intend to build one or two balloons, and then squat here on the ground and admire them and clean bird poop off them?”

“No, I most—”

“You’re going to need pilots. And most of the airheads in Grantville are going to go running to those . . . those flying catastrophes. And until someone can figure out how to make internal combustion engines with a greater thrust-to-weight ratio than a brick, what are they going to do when they run out of VW and lawnmower engines?”

“I could use more of these ‘lawn mower’ engines. And you understand thrust to . . .”

“Understand thrust to weight? Sure. And I understand those, too.” She pointed at the tethered balloon. “Why do you think they kicked me out of the Brownies? Those things are as easy as a plastic bag over a campfire. It wasn’t my fault the other girls didn’t think before they tried it and started that crown fire. None of my plastic bag balloons caught fire and started a forest fire.”

“I see . . .”

“Adults are always saying that,” Logan grumbled.

“Fire is a serious thing with a balloon. One must be careful around the burner.”

“Duh . . .” Logan clamped her mouth shut. This was not going well.

Time to bring out the big guns. She let go of her grandmother’s revolver, which she had been holding in her jacket pocket the whole time, and unrolled the poster.

“See? From the first hot air balloon to a jet fighter. See? I know a lot about flying.”

“I can see you have given this much thought but—”

“Do you? I got my first ride in a Piper J3C-65S. It was this Junior Eagles program. I was supposed to go to their academy when I turned twelve.” Logan shook her head in frustration. “Well, guess where I was when I turned twelve? Here.”

“Maybe this is a passing interest—”

“How can you can say that?” Logan tried to calm herself so she could properly say her favorite quote. “‘For once you have tasted flight you will walk around the earth with your eyes turned upwards because there you have been and there you will long to return.’ Leonardo da Vinci said that.”

“The Ring of Fire changed a great many things—”

“Ever since my first ride, I wanted to fly. I had it all planned out. Dad was going to let me join the Civil Air Patrol in Bridgeport and there was that Eagles Academy, but then this whole Ring of Fire thing happened.”

“Why balloons?”

“See? You don’t see.” Logan took a deep breath. “Those stupid planes polluting the skies are jokes, wannabes, pretensions. I bet I could fly one based on my stick time with flight simulators. The problem is I would know what they were and I would probably crash the stupid thing because I would forget I wasn’t up there in a real airplane but in something Orville wouldn’t let Wilbur even sit in, let alone fly.”

“Flight simulators?” Antonio frowned. “I have heard of those.”

“Dad gave up my computer to the government or I would’ve been able to show a real flight simulator. I wonder if they dumped the software. I had a patch for a dirigible.”

“Yes, computers . . . you know Blaise Pascal, do you not?”

Logan couldn’t help but glare up at the man. “Yeah. So?”

“He is working on computers, yes?”

“All the time.”

“I see. Well . . . if, as you say, I am interested in more than these balloons, possibly interested in creating an air courier service—and let us agree that I am in need of more pilots—then I will also need some way to schedule them. I am told that computers can help with scheduling, yes?”

Logan glared at him for some time, long enough for the man to appear slightly unnerved.

“Blaise’s computers can’t even add four-digit numbers yet without blowing a gasket,” Logan forced out between clenched teeth. Then she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Look, I’m here to train as a pilot. Back up-time, twelve-year-olds could get a pilot’s license. My mom thinks I should go to college because she still thinks up-time is like down-time, only without fast food and cable television. I am tired of pretending. Kids my age are apprenticing—not flying around in a holding pattern called school.”

“Learning is important . . .”

“I overheard one of the teachers tell a student that if the Ring of Fire reverses then everyone will need proof they graduated high school. Bah! That’s stupid. I’m here, now—and I want to be a pilot. So are you taking on trainees?”

Antonio appeared ready to speak, but Logan felt the need to make certain things clear.

“And if you’re worried about me being a girl . . . well you can stop worrying.” Logan hoped the look on her face made her appear more mature and less angry.

“I learned many things in Grantville. One of them is that being a girl means something different now. With an appropriate chaperone, I think—”

“Chaperones . . .” Logan muttered in disgust.

“My crew is mostly men. I have had two women pilot the Pelican—”

“See? So, are you going to let me show you what I can do?”

“I do not give rides . . .”

“I’m not asking for a ride. I’m asking for a chance to show you I can fly the thing.” Logan closed her eyes and tried to reach a calm, quiet place inside herself. “Please.”

Logan took off her backpack and zipped it open. She pulled out her final card. “I’ve got a barometer . . . and I know how to use it.”

Antonio’s expression shifted from skeptical to delighted. “I see . . .”

“I heard the complaints about getting your down-time altimeters properly adjusted, so I brought this. As you can see, it’s an up-time device—made in the twentieth century. I calibrated it against the mercury barometer in the physics lab, and I have all the corrections in my notebook.”

Logan pressed her advantage. “Look . . . suppose you hire me as a pilot trainee. I won’t have any reason to carry my barometer with me all the time. So you can keep it for me—in your office, on your desk—when I’m not using it.”

The office of the Director of Social Services for the SoTF, Bamberg

(later that day)

Julie Drahuta sat in her office in the building that housed the government of the State of Thuringia-Franconia and tried to keep a serious expression on her face.

“You didn’t have to send the police,” Logan muttered sullenly.

No matter how often it happened, it always amazed Julie how fast a relatively boring, mundane day could change into something worthy of sitcom, a tragedy, and a comedy, all at the same time.

Logan,” Julie growled. “Don’t use that tone with me. And I didn’t send the police after you. I merely suggested to a few people I know that I’d really like to know where you are—because I know that when your mother gets here, she’ll want to know exactly where you are.”

Logan stared at the floor. “So, how much trouble am I in?”

“That depends,” Julie said to the frowning figure of aggrieved adolescence who sat before her. “It depends on whether your father lets your mother stew during the train ride all the way from Grantville, or if he tries to cheer her up with amusing stories about the other stupid things you’ve done and survived.”

Logan looked up. “I’m not a kid anymore.”

Julie looked into the girl’s eyes—no, the young woman’s—eyes. She had to remind herself that Logan wasn’t eight any more. The Ring of Fire had happened almost five years ago. Kids did, indeed, grow up.

“How long have I known you?”

Logan shrugged. “A while . . .”

Julie, through her husband and his family, had known Logan Sebastian since before the girl was born.

“You scared the living daylights out of your parents, Logan. Granted, you made it here without being killed, and—if this Sorrento person is any indication—you reached your goal. Well, part of it.”

“My mom wouldn’t have let me go. She would’ve told me I need to stay in school. . . . But for what? So I could become an aeronautical engineer and design stealth fighters? I don’t need to be ten times smarter than everyone else when four or five will do.”

Julie smiled. “Spoken like a true teenager.”

“There are no teenagers here,” Logan stated.

“If your mother’s mood is any indication, you might be right.”

“She’s not gonna kill me. Smack me around a bit, but I can handle that.” Logan shrugged. “When she calms down, she’ll listen.”

“Your mother said it was a good thing you took your lacrosse stick with you.” Julie shook her head. “She asked me about child abuse laws in the State of Thuringia-Franconia. I told her that they were . . . still being worked on, since what a down-time German thinks is child abuse doesn’t quite match what an up-time West Virginian thinks child abuse is. For that matter, there’s a great deal of argument about what defines a ‘child.’

“I’m thirteen,” Logan asserted. “This isn’t West Virginia. Tell my mom I am not a child.”

Logan . . .”

“I know what you’re gonna say, so don’t say it. Aside from all that stuff about baking bread without a bread maker and how to dig a latrine or hoe a line of turnips, I know a lot more than any down-time thirteen-year-old. I could probably take that gas bag up based on nothing more than my flight simulator experience. I might make a few mistakes, but most of the mistakes you make in a lighter-than-air craft involve falling, slowly. I know about thermals and wind shear and prevailing winds and stuff like that. I don’t need to waste five more years while the world goes by without me!”

“Are you raising your voice to me, young lady?”

Logan slumped in her chair. “No.”

“First of all, you were very rude to Mr. Sorrento.”

“I’m sorry about that. I was mad.”

“I think you gave a very good lesson on how not to interview for a job. With that in mind, I will tell you that he asked me what I knew about you.”

“What did you say?”

“I said that Logan Sebastian usually gets what she sets her mind to. I told him that you do know mathematics. I gave him a brief explanation of what flight simulators were and he seemed impressed. He was also impressed that your father taught math.”

“Of course, I can do math. I can also tell the difference between an altocumulus and stratus cloud. See? I could do this . . .”

Logan, there are dead bodies of people older than you between here and Grantville. You worried your parents out of their minds! That was both unfair and unkind, and I have known Logan Sebastian to be many things, but unfair and unkind—especially to her parents—is not among those things. Do I make myself clear?”

“Crystal clear. But I am not some vase that needs to be packed in bubble wrap. They were being unfair to me. They were holding me back.”

“Okay, I admit, your mother is a bit overprotective and your father . . . after the Ring of Fire especially, has been a bit overindulgent with you.”

“Overindulgent?” Logan said with surprise. “Once I found Blaise for him, he barely knew I was there. He thinks the whole thing is funny, like a big joke. Blaise has come very close to saying that, in Paris, there were some who would think I was a prostitute because of what I wore and stuff.”

“Blaise is a different story, and leave Paris out of it. Now, your father has a great deal of faith in you. He has faith in you being able to take care of yourself. Running off to become apprenticed to a blimp—”

“They’re not blimps.” Logan pouted.

Logan? Don’t pull that crap with me, of all people. If I want to be lectured to about all the things I don’t know, I will sit down and have a quiet discussion with Blaise Pascal, world’s biggest pain in the butt. I know your father would have expected you to discuss this ‘apprenticeship’ thing with him—not go running off like some sort of dingbat heading for the circus!”

“Thirteen-year-old girls get apprenticed here and now all the time. If I have to live with this Ring of Fire crap, then Mom and Dad have to, too. She treats me like I’m some sort of fragile antique. The older kids who came through are off doing stuff, and the younger kids think outhouses and swords are cool.”

Julie shook her head sadly. “I know a few adults who think swords are cool, too.”

“Is Mr. Drahuta still wearing his spurs into the house and marking up the walls with his sword?”

“We’re not discussing my husband. We’re discussing you, Logan.”

“I’m thirteen now, not eight! What about Blaise? He was hanging from the church steeple and did anyone take away his pocket calculator?”

“Since you brought him up, again, there is some news about Blaise.”

“What did he do now?” Logan exhaled an exasperated sigh. “Accidentally stab Mike Stearns with a mathematical equation?”

“I received a radiogram, telling me that some idiot gave Blaise a horse. He’s on his way here.”

“Who the hell gave that car wreck a horse?” Logan shouted. “And what’s he coming here for?”

“For you.”

Logan stood up. “For me?”

Logan, sit down. You just up and left, and he has it in his head that he—being a member of the French nobility, sort of—has to come and save you. So when no one was going to lend him a car, he borrowed a horse.”

“A car? Who the hell was going to give him a car?”

Logan? Your language! Now, I haven’t spoken to Jacqueline so I can’t confirm it, but he’s got it in his head that his father is coming and it would look bad if he didn’t try and save you. Apparently, he needs to prove to his father that he didn’t dishonor you. And—if Jacqueline can be understood, she lapses into French when she’s real nervous—her father is supposed to be ‘sneaking’ into Grantville any day now to reacquaint himself with his son and maybe fight a duel with your father over your honor.”

“I don’t need to be saved, and my honor is just fine!”

Logan? You are—”

“A car? He looks at cars as neat toys to test principles of physics. I’ll probably have to go and save him. And his father probably thinks I ain’t good enough for the twerp.”

Logan . . .”

“Okay,” Logan grumbled. “I’ll go and set up my tent at the airfield and wait for Blaise to come and save me.”

“You are not going anywhere,” Julie stated firmly. “I’ll put you up in my house.”

“I got a sleeping bag and a tent . . .”

“Fine. You can store them in my house. You are not setting up a tent in Bamberg. This is not your backyard. That is final.”

“Mr. Sorrento said he’d take me on as a pilot trainee. I can sleep out with the airship. A real air ship, not cobbled-together wannabe’s pretending to be something they’re not!”

Logan . . .”

“I hate my life.”

Logan, what’s really bothering you?”

Logan didn’t respond.

Julie knew that it could take a while to draw out the real story from Logan. But after her encounters with Blaise Pascal, she knew that she had the patience to deal with just about anything involving a young teenager. And beyond that, she knew that Logan was probably right about Blaise needing rescuing—she had already contacted the Jaegers who patrolled the road between Grantville and Bamberg.

When Logan finally spoke, it came out in a torrent. “I know enough to know I can’t have everything I want, okay? A lot of kids my age are hoping the Ring of Fire will happen again and everything will be like it was. We know enough to know what we lost, but not enough to make do with what we got left.”

“Everybody has had to deal with that, Logan. Even the down-timers. We were quite a shock to them.”

“I get it, okay? I’m making do with what I got. I’m willing to meet the world half-way, but I ain’t backin’ down one inch more. Not one inch! If I can’t fly a wide body, then I’ll fly a blimp thing! At least it carries more stuff than a hope and a prayer. I can’t do it, though, if my mom thinks I’m still thirteen in the year 2000, not thirteen in 1636.”

“There were better ways to go about it,” Julie said.

“Like how? This is the seventeenth century. You gotta just do it. My mom probably thinks it’s cute that Blaise is worried about what his father is going to think about ‘us’—like there’s an ‘us,’ but it isn’t cute. It’s life. Blaise has to think about what people are going to think about him and me. Girlfriend and boyfriend doesn’t mean the prom and getting your driver’s license and stuff going on in the back of a car that I’m not supposed to know about. 1630-something means I gotta prove I can embroider and teach my kids about the Bible and run a house while my husband is away digging holes in the ground or farming or beating iron into stuff or stabbing people with it. Everything’s different and what was cute up-time ain’t cute now. Being a thirteen-year-old teenager is cute up-time, but it ain’t cute at all down-time. Down-time, teenagers don’t exist.”

Logan, I know this must be hard on you.”

“You have no idea.”

“I would like to think I have some idea . . . I mean, I did find Blaise Pascal hanging from a church steeple, didn’t I? And trying to control my husband hasn’t been a picnic either . . . I am told no sane man wanders about his own house dressed in cavalry armor.”

“Everything’s different, and nobody asked me if I wanted it to be,” Logan said. “Well, I’m not going to apprentice myself as some old woman’s handmaid. If Blaise wants me to accept that he’s a French gentleman and the world’s greatest mathematician, then he’s gotta accept that I want to be a pilot.”

“Has he told you this?”

“No.” Logan closed her eyes. “He’s probably scared I’d hit him.”

“Is he smart to be scared?”

“If he wants embroidery done for those stupid cuffs of his, then he’s gonna have to hire someone to do it ’cause it ain’t gonna be me! I’m not marrying Prince. And I’m not gonna disrespect my dreams of 747s by embarrassing myself in one of those rinky-dink air-catastrophes-waiting-to-happen. Until they can make real airplanes, blimps will have to do. Blimps don’t pretend to be something they’re not!”

“I see,” Julie said.

“You adults always say that. Do you really ‘see’? Do you? I’m in the middle and I gotta make do. I was old enough to remember the world wide web, but not old enough to be allowed to go out and make the best out of the crap that got throw’d at me. And I wasn’t young enough to forget that once I could actually fly a 747, or go to the moon, or something like that. Now I’m caught between the world’s greatest mathematician and washing underwear by hand. I know it’ll all look better from a few thousand feet up. I just know it!”

Logan sighed. Then she continued. “I don’t wanna be one of those old people who sit on the porch, talk and talk about all the things they coulda done but never did because they had to work the mine thirty hours a day or their girlfriend got pregnant. Hell, I don’t even want a porch.”

Julie didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or slap Logan silly.

The Home of Julie Drahuta, Director of Social Services for SoTF

(afternoon of the next day)

The American Perspective

“I’ll slap her silly!” Mitzi Sebastian shouted.

“Honey, baby, control yourself.” Allan Sebastian hugged his wife. “Besides, as the aggrieved father, I get firsties.”

“This isn’t funny, Allan. She could have been killed or . . . assaulted.”

“She could have been killed or assaulted up-time, too. At least here they allow a certain vigilantism that makes the actual ‘assault’ part less common. Personally, I’m more worried about Blaise wandering loose, trying to ride to her rescue, than I am about Logan up in a balloon. Apparently this Sorrento guy hired a chaperone for her. He has good references. Julie told me he has connections straight to the top of government.”

“Oh, I feel much better now.” Mitzi was about to scream at her husband for his nonchalant attitude. But instead, she took several deep breaths to regain control of herself before continuing. “Okay, I will admit things are a lot less lawless in the seventeenth century than I imagined. Well, other than the wars raging back and forth and the sack of cities. On the whole, there aren’t as many crimes as I would have imagined.”

“And she does have that lacrosse stick.”

“Shut up about that lacrosse stick. I know for a fact she took my mother’s old thirty-eight with her, too. But she ran away,” Mitzi complained. “She ran away like . . . like we were abusing her or something.”

“Our Logan? Run? She walked away with a plan. She didn’t run off to become a movie star or to join a circus.”

“They don’t have circuses in the seventeenth century, do they?”

“You’re missing the point. She walked away to get a job. Makes sense, sort of . . .”

“She left us with nothing but a note and an empty bed. I’m furious! She should have talked to us like a normal thirteen-year-old.”

Allan laughed. “You noticed her bed was made and her room clean.”

“Okay, like our thirteen-year-old. We didn’t raise her to go haring off after any old thing. We taught her to talk to her parents, not run away from them. Didn’t we? Did we fail that badly?”

“She’s not eight anymore, Mitzi. She’s been chompin’ at the bit for some time. The seventeenth century doesn’t have the child labor laws that the twenty-first did. You can’t keep her in her room playing with Barbie dolls and collecting college brochures until she’s eighteen.”

“Barbie dolls? I wouldn’t dare give her one of those. She wouldn’t talk to me for a month. And she was collecting military brochures. She tried to apply to the Naval Academy before the Ring of Fire, did you know that?”

Allan nodded. “Of course. Who do you think got her the brochure?”

“But she’s just thirteen, Allan. Thirteen . . .”

“There are quite a few who think it’s silly to keep young adults as children at home. Most kids are well into their apprenticeship by thirteen. Even girls.”

“Embroidery.” Mitzi shook her head. “Could you imagine Logan doing needlepoint or serving tea to some old fogey?”

Allan nodded sagely. “For about five minutes. What would happen after that depends on a great many things—like whether she had a certain stick you gave her.”

“Forget the lacrosse stick, before I hit you with one. Okay, she’s not very . . . feminine or motherly. After that incident with little Avery, when she was six, no one on my side of the family will put a baby in her arms. She’s tried to get babysitting jobs and not even the Germans will talk to her. Gossip is an awful thing, especially when it’s right. What have we raised?”

“You have to admit, it was an inventive way to keep track of a baby. She didn’t harm Avery much.” Allan smiled. “She does have a rather brusque way with children. There ain’t nothin’ giggly-goo about Logan when it comes to babies. She told me off once for using baby talk with a baby.”

“She’s just not the motherly type. I remember hearing her talking while changing a diaper. I certainly hope that baby didn’t understand a thing she said. . . . Okay, I admit it. Do you think it was my fault?”

“Remember that birthday party for Mabel’s grandniece? We all went to the pond, remember?”

“Oh God!” Mitzi hid her eyes with her hand as if the disastrous event were occurring right there before her. Then she began laughing. “You had to remind me about that, didn’t you?”

“No one drowned. And she did wallop that water moccasin before it got close to any of the tots.”

“Oh Lord! I forgot all about that. She wanted you to skin it so she could use it as a hat band.”

“Hence,” Allan stated with a certain debonair tone, “the lacrosse stick.”

“We should have been supervising them more carefully. I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if any of them drowned. Everyone just assumes little girls are just great with kids.”

“No, we shouldn’t have given Logan the responsibility for all those little kids. She was what, seven? Eight? “

“It was just a few months before the Ring of Fire. Allan Sebastian . . .” Mitzi giggled. “How can I be properly mad at her now with you smiling like that? We need a unified front.”

“You’ll find a way. Remember, she found Blaise. You can be mad at her for that.”

“Okay, Blaise is a little off the wall, but I never hated him. He’s a perfect gentleman. True, take him up-time and he would give Liberace a run for his money. Whoever introduced him to cloth dyes then gave him extra money should be strung up from the nearest church steeple. That boy . . . I hope they find him. That boy worries me. Even Matheny is out looking. I thought, of all people, the fire chief would be celebrating the disappearance of Blaise—especially if it didn’t involve an explosion.”

“Julie says that Logan is pretending she doesn’t care.” Allan sighed. “I guess I should be more fatherly and glare more at Blaise. He might become our son-in-law.”

“Oh Lord, save our family tree. Blaise Pascal as a Sebastian? Oh Lord . . .”

“Remember that time she shoved him into the pool? I don’t know who was more surprised: Logan for not realizing that few down-timers know how to swim, or Blaise for learning the modified doggie paddle in two seconds flat.”

“The pool was only three feet deep at that end. The boy could have stood up. I think Blaise was more traumatized by her one-piece. He was trying to wrap a towel around her when she pushed him.”

“She could have been wearing that ‘cute’ bikini your cousin sent her,” Allan said.

“Over my dead body! I sent that abomination straight back!”

Allan smiled. “Well, how motherly of you, Mrs. Sebastian.”

“I hope he’s okay. I hope they find him. I mean, how does someone become lost between Grantville and Bamberg nowadays? I mean, what are the odds?”

“Well, dear, the boy did invent probability. Maybe he was doing a mathematical experiment.”

“Don’t be absurd. Math he does well.” Mitzi sighed. “Being chivalrous is one of the many things he does not do well. Remember the Thanksgiving Dance and that . . . contraption he brought to pin on Logan‘s dress? I thought he was a goner right then and there—and he would have been if she had her lacrosse stick handy.”

The Home of Julie Drahuta, Director of Social Services for SoTF

(mid-morning, the next day)

The French Perspective

Etienne Pascal thought the man was absurd. One simply did not stroll through his own house wearing cavalry armor. It simply was not done. But this minor absurdity diverted his attention from his distress for only a fleeting moment.

“Papa, you will make yourself ill. Drink it,” Gilberte urged him. “Just smile, Papa. It will all turn out for the best if we leave it to God.”

Etienne tried to give his eldest daughter a smile but the effort to raise the corners of his mouth was too much.

“It is not your fault, Papa. Stop this at once. Stop.”

“But it is my fault. I sent my son here. And as it turned out, for reasons that were false. I thought he was in danger of being taken and used as some sort of token of French greatness, past, present and future—a puppet. And now he is gone.” Etienne took a sip of the tea. “Bah, this is tea?”

Americans used an absurd amount of honey in their tea. What would normal people do if they were able to get their hands on sugar in the amounts it appeared were common in the twenty-first century? He had seen those abominations called “five pound bags.” The thought of that much sugar in one place made him shudder. The tax on that much sugar just lying around made his head spin.

“It is good, Father.” Florin, his new son-in-law, smiled and replaced the tea mug carefully on the table.

“Papa?” Gilberte said.

“It is all absurd,” Etienne said softly. “All of it. Should I have kept Blaise in France? I do not know anymore. It is all absurd.”

“Papa . . . they still search, Papa,” Gilberte said. “They have found his horse, his jacket, this . . . thing called a ‘sneaker,’ a book with sword damage, and many other things he was seen to leave Grantville with. It appears two men might have killed themselves and that Blaise is okay. None of his possessions were bloody.”

“They did not find the ‘calculator’ Jacqueline says he loves.”

“Apparently the horse dragged him quite some distance but he appears to have survived the experience. They have not found him. Papa, there is a chance he is . . . alive. We must have faith in a loving God and his attention to the sufferings and misadventures of children.”

“He is not a child, not quite. I read some of his writings. Spoke to his employer at the . . . power station. He is not a child, Gilberte. He has an important job that even I do not fully comprehend, and yet he comprehends it quite well. Jacqueline presented a very unforgiving picture of her brother. I will speak to her about her writing. It is a gift she has and should not be used to describe her brother in the way she has. His relationship with this . . . this . . . Logan, for instance.”

“Jacqueline loves Blaise,” Gilberte said defensively. “She was justifiably concerned about his relationship with Logan. Actually, she seemed more concerned that Blaise would do something to Logan that would result in Logan . . . what did she say . . . ‘braining’ him?”

“I can see why this young lady’s father did not cut Blaise’s young head from his shoulders.”

“Because she would probably do it herself if Blaise acted in any way that was not gentlemanly,” Gilberte said. “American women, even the younger variety, are . . . dangerous, Papa. Apparently, they do not need brothers.”

“This Logan is quite fond of Blaise, it is true. There were many who found them both . . . what is the word? Cute? I could find no hint of scandal or gossip. It was all out in the open.”

“I spoke with some who apprehend my little brother in much the same way the Romans apprehended the Visigoths or the Vandals. Apparently, the Jews enjoy his attendance at their religious rituals. He attends the Catholic service regularly, and his singing is commented upon favorably.”

“Jacqueline’s translation might have been inaccurate,” Etienne said. “She knows many languages, it is true, but is she old enough to understand them?”

“We should have brought her with us. She understands and speaks this English quite well. I was impressed. She left us a mouse, and now she is somewhat less like a rodent.”

“You are being unfair to your sister.”

“Yes, Papa. My apologies.”

“I will not lose both of them, Gilberte. She is safe with Madam Delfault. Madam Delfault has done very well under trying circumstances. What will I do with her services now?”

“Maybe my husband and I can use them? She makes some sense by suggesting that you accept the offer to move in with the Fermats. Our financial situation, father, cannot be helped by your coming to Grantville and here. The hotel is quite expensive.”

“You are not with child already, Gilberte?”

“Well, we are, as the Americans say, French,” Gilberte smiled.

“Bah! These Americans and their notions about what is what and who is whom.” Etienne frowned. “What have I done, Gilberte? Maybe your mother’s family was right about me. After your mother died, I did my very best, and it was not good . . .”

“Shush, Papa! You have done very well, indeed. I will not have you admonish yourself further. They will find Blaise alive. I know it.”

“He did what he did for me, you know. I should have never warned Jacqueline we were coming. Blaise devised the code so, of course, he would know as well. He had to prove he was a man to his old father and go after this wayward girl who, apparently, is quite capable of taking care of herself. Imagine letting young girls play such a game with a club. It is . . . indecent.”

“Will you tell her she is indecent?”

“No,” Etienne said quickly. “The situation is absurd enough without being clubbed about the head by a girl. Are all American women this . . . forward? Maybe that is why Monsieur Drahuta wears his armor indoors.”

“I think Gilberte is quite capable of maintaining herself with these American women, Father,” Florin stated gracefully. “She may not have a stick but she has other weapons.”

“You only say that to prevent Gilberte from clubbing you,” Etienne said. “You are part of the reason I sent Blaise and Jacqueline away so that I could concentrate on your wedding—and not the potential kidnapping of my son to be used as a piece in a political game.”

“My point, with exactness, father.” Florin smiled and took another sip of the tea.

“Men.” Gilberte fussed with her tea mug. “It is all about violence with you isn’t it?”

“You better hope so for Blaise’s sake,” Florin said. “My guess is that Blaise found trouble far more serious than an inaccurate measuring device and a church steeple.”

“I saw that steeple,” Etienne said. “It was very tall. He calculated the height to within two decimal places. His math impressed me. The ruler was, indeed, inaccurate. I hope . . . his mathematics will impress me again, Lord willing. Please bring him safe to me, oh God, please . . .”

The Home of Julie Drahuta, Director of Social Services for SoTF

(mid-day, the same day)

The Perspective of the Lady of the House

Julie tried to calm her breathing before speaking. “Norman, if you are going to tramp around the house in your armor, at least take off the damned spurs! The Pascals look at you like you’re some horror they can’t name.”

“I might have to leave at a moment’s notice.”

“I swear, Norman, as the director of social services, I will enact an animal cruelty law if I see you spur that beautiful animal once. Just once!”

“This whole Blaise event is going on in my jurisdiction. I have to look good. Cavalry officers wear spurs.”

“You are not going to look very good if your wife tosses your clanking butt out into the street! If armor was meant for casual wear around the house, JC Penney’s would be selling it in their catalogs if there was a JC Penney’s anymore, which there isn’t!”

Norman glared down his nose at his wife. “I look cool in this.”

“You look like a dork in that.” Julie glared straight back at him. “Can you at least sit with our guests without ripping the furniture? You can sit in that, right?”

“I can.”

Karla laughed. “You look like the Tin Man, Daddy.”

“See?” Julie noted. “You are being laughed at by your daughter.”

“If I remember, Karla, you were afraid of the Tin Man,” Norman reminded his daughter.

“Not anymore.” She giggled.

The Home of Julie Drahuta, Director of Social Services for SoTF

(evening, the same day)

The French Perspective meets the American Perspective

The Pascals—Etienne, his daughter Gilberte, and Gilberte’s husband Florin—sat in one side of the parlor of the Drahuta home.

The Sebastians—Allan and Mitzi—sat in the other side of the parlor. Logan stood off to the side, uncomfortable in her role as translator.

Julie Drahuta sat between the two groups, in a position that allowed her to easily see all of them. She had picked up some French, back up-time, when she had gone to Europe for a conference on social work. And she had picked up quite a bit more, down-time, from Jacqueline Pascal. She hoped that between her sparse grasp of the French and Logan‘s more poignant and hostile French, together, not too much would be missed in the translation.

Etienne began, “I thank you, we thank you, for your good wishes about Blaise. To tell you the truth, Mr. Sebastian, it had occurred to me that our first meeting might be on opposite sides of crossed swords.”

Logan glared at the man but maintained her cool.

“What?” Allan said. “Because of Blaise and Logan?”

“Yes.” Logan translated unnecessarily and with a dramatic roll of her eyes.

“Never.” Allan almost laughed until he saw his daughter’s face.

Mitzi added, “Blaise has always behaved as a gentleman toward Logan, Monsieur Pascal.”

“I am most relieved to hear that, Mrs. Sebastian,” Etienne said.

“In fact,” Allan said, “the danger between Blaise and Logan might be that Blaise does something perfectly gentlemanly, which ends up infuriating Logan.”

Julie flinched as Logan had difficulty translating “infuriating.”

Gilberte finally spoke up, and Julie translated, gratefully. “Yes, my sister, Jacqueline, has said that American women are dangerous.”

Allan chuckled. “Well . . . when it comes to being dangerous, Blaise is right up there with the best of them. However, the danger Blaise poses is always unintentional—and frequently directed at himself.” Logan translated that with apparent glee, but as far as Julie could tell, accurately.

“Yes.” Etienne frowned. “Jacqueline has also informed us about Blaise and his difficulty with a church steeple.”

Allan chuckled again. “Events like the steeple incident are what make me think that Blaise and Logan just might be perfect for each other. The things we could tell you about some of the ridiculous things that Logan has done.”

Logan‘s look attracted the attention of the Pascals.

“Yes, please do tell us,” Florin said. “It might be well that our family learn as much as we can about Logan.”

Gilberte glared at her husband. Florin gave Gilberte a conciliatory smile.

“Okay,” Allan said. “When Logan was eight, about a month before the Ring of Fire, we let her see an old movie called A Night to Remember, about the Titanic.”

“Oh Jesus Christ! Not that again!” Logan blurted.

Now Mitzi glared at her daughter.

Julie explained to the Pascals what a movie was, and what the Titanic was. Apparently, Jacqueline had made her job easier by describing movies in detail, in previous letters.

“Dad! Stop it!” Logan growled.

Allan continued. “We went to a child’s birthday party. Part way through the afternoon, when the adults all went to a nearby pond, Logan had all the smaller children in the water.”

“She had them all in floaties—duct taped the floaties right to them,” Mitzi said. “She was pretending they were all survivors of a ship wreck, and she was the surviving ship’s officer taking them to safety.”

Julie had to struggle to keep from laughing out loud. She hadn’t been there but had heard all about it even after the Ring of Fire.

Julie explained to the Pascals what floaties are, and what duct tape is. It took awhile without Logan‘s help.

Logan was leading them in a variation of that Psalm.” Allan smiled. “Yea, though we float through the pond of death we will fear no shark attack . . .”

“Some of those kids looked terrified,” Mitzi said. “Oh Lord, I thought someone was going to dive in and drown Logan right there and right then.”

Logan didn’t convey the second part of what her mother had just said, but Julie discerned that the Pascals were filling in the blanks from the less-than-complete translating. Despite the occasional incomplete translation and the frequent melodramatic facial expressions, Logan seemed, at least, to not be intentionally mistranslating.

“She even had Styrofoam ice chests as icebergs,” Allan said. “I don’t know what some of the parents were more upset about, their kids floating in the pond or the warm beer.”

Julie explained to the Pascals what Styrofoam ice chests are. She wasn’t sure if she was successful.

Logan did keep all of them herded together, though she had them pretty far from shore,” Mitzi said. “But no one drowned. And she did whack a water moccasin with her lacrosse stick, before the snake got close to any of the tots.”

Julie explained to the Pascals that a water moccasin is a very dangerous, poisonous water snake, but apparently, not more dangerous than Logan Sebastian.

Logan wanted me to skin it,” Allan said, “so that she could use it as a hat band.”

Julie could see realization dawn over Etienne Pascal’s face.

“My good lord in Heaven,” Etienne whispered, when it finally made sense.

After a long pause, Florin pressed further about Logan. “Logan came here to Bamberg to become an aircraft pilot. Is this common in your up-time world, that girls wish to become pilots?”

“It’s not as common as many other things,” Allan said. “But it’s not so rare that anyone would be surprised by it.”

“How did Logan come to this interest?” Florin said, conspicuously not looking at Logan.

“When Logan was about five years old,” Allan said, “she came to me and asked me to make the other airplanes stop shooting at her. I had no idea what she was talking about, so I tried to get her to explain, but she just kept repeating that the other airplanes keep shooting her down. When I asked her to show me, she took me to my home computer and ran my air-combat program.”

Logan helped with this translation, thankfully. Apparently Jacqueline’s letters helped here as well. Computers had been a topic in those letters.

Logan knew how to use a computer at age five?” Florin asked.

“We had decided to load Reader Rabbit on the computer,” Mitzi said. “It’s a program that helps young children learn to read, by combining education and entertainment. And we showed Logan how to run that program.”

“In a much shorter time than we had expected,” Allan continued, “Logan had learned what the reading program had to teach her, and she got bored with it. Then without my knowing it, she started using the air-combat program that I had loaded onto the computer for my own entertainment. But she didn’t want to shoot at the enemy planes that were trying to shoot her down; she just wanted to fly. So when I found out, I loaded a flight-simulation program on the computer for her.”

Logan explained to the Pascals about flight simulators. And while she was explaining about air-combat games, Norman came home.

Norman greeted the guests, and then announced that no one knew anything more about Blaise than they did a few hours ago.

“Typical of him,” Logan grumbled.

The Perspective of Blaise Pascal, World’s Greatest Mathematician, standing at the front door of the Julie Drahuta Residence

(very early the next morning)

“Bah!” Blaise spat hoarsely at the door he surmised was the one behind which lived Madame Julie Drahuta. “Damn up-time women. Damn horses. Damn Bamberg. Damn everything! Hear me? Do you?”

The door did not answer him.

Logan will not care what I went through. She will only laugh and then where will I be? I will be here, without my own clothes, without my horse . . . the horse I borrowed. Damn! I will need to replace the horse. Madam Drahuta will shake her head and be done with me. Why can’t life be more like a mathematical equation, an algebraic one with one real root for an answer? Why all this chaos? Logan Sebastian, you are not worth all of this. I will go back home and be done with you. This time I will take the train. If you made it to Bamberg then I wish you well! I am done with you.”

Logan had been an investment of sorts, but no matter what he did nothing proceeded as it should.

“Nothing!”

Blaise turned away from the door but took only one step.

“Damn you!” Blaise snapped at the unyielding door. The frustration was just too much. “I am wearing the skin of an animal for you . . .”

That thought, above all others, eclipsing everything else, was what motivated him to continue on.

With the sort of single-minded purpose that had him, in the not so distant past, swinging from a church steeple, or picking pieces of a microwave oven’s glass door out of his oversized turnout coat and face shield, or convinced him that a block of ceramics could one day become a computer, and put him on a horse on a fool’s errand, Blaise Pascal, world’s greatest mathematician, attempted to kick the door open. And much to his consternation, he found the door unlocked.

In fact, as he stumbled through the doorway, he found the door had been more than unlocked and in the process of being opened by an armed man.

Blaise Pascal, world’s greatest mathematician and probably the world’s worst swordsman, attempted to draw his sword while spinning about to confront the miscreant sneaking out of the Drahuta Residence’s front door like some thief in the . . . well, early morning.

A thief wearing armor and spurs?

En garde!” Blaise shouted. He only wished he were as good at what came after those words as he was at shouting the words themselves.

The sword, unscabbarded, opened up a long gash across his upper thigh and nearly unmanned him when he drew it out. His turn led him to a stumble, which prevented him from being slapped silly by a gauntleted hand that had come around in a vicious arc. The stumble then turned into a dance of destruction—Blaise attempted to regain his balance and proceeded to dismantle almost every piece of furniture in the entrance room.

Falling, his sword held in a passable quarte position but with no close opponent, Blaise pulled the large, flintlock pistol from his belt with his other hand. And in a fit of marksmanship worthy of him, he blasted to bits the only remaining intact piece of furniture in the entranceway.

Even being stunned by the violence of the explosion from the overly large pistol, Blaise noticed someone falling down the stairs as he, too, fell.

As he lay there—the sword suddenly far too heavy, the smoking pistol useless—Blaise began to laugh. “You are not worth it, Logan Sebastian! I surrender! Take me home!”

“Holy crap! He’s bleeding!” Logan‘s voice was like sweet though loud music. “Did you shoot yourself?”

Someone tore to shreds the last bits of his once-magnificent silk hosiery after removing the scraps of cloth he had wrapped about his legs.

He felt air upon parts of him that should not feel air, but he closed his eyes against the sudden dizziness.

“Unhand me or I will . . .” Blaise attempted to sit up. The attempt was completely unsuccessful.

“. . . Cut your other leg off? What the hell? Help me, Mr. Drahuta! Did you slash him?”

“I was just leaving. He came tumbling in when I opened the door!”

“Blaise!” a voice Blaise felt he should recognize, shouted, “where in the hell did you come from?”

“He came in through the door like there were Indians after him,” another voice stated. “Then he beat up all the furniture and shot that little table you liked.”

“Jesus Christ!”

Ah yes, Madam Drahuta. Blaise recognized her angry voice, having heard it often and close.

Mon Dieu!”

Now that voice was difficult to place.

Logan! I have found you!” Blaise smiled up at his victory. “I wish to go home now. My father is coming. I must introduce him to you. I must . . . why am I so dizzy?”

“I swear, Blaise, you make me late for work and I’ll kill you!” Logan shouted. But her attention seemed to be much lower down than his face.

“You are always promising to kill me, but I still live!” Blaise would have raised his sword in victory but could not seem to find the strength.

Suddenly, there was a great deal of commotion and light and voices and shouts.

“What are you doing?” Blaise demanded.

“Trying to stop you from bleeding to death,” Logan said through gritted teeth.

“Who is bleeding?” Blaise demanded.

“Speak in English!”

Blaise frowned. “I am speaking English.”

“You are speaking French!”

“You are making no sense! Oh, father, is that you? I would like you to . . . meet . . .” and the entire world went black. “Bah!” Blaise exclaimed angrily at the world entire, or very much thought he did.

A guest room in the residence of Julie Drahuta, Director of Social Services for SoTF

(four days later)

“She is not to be allowed in my room!”

Gilberte turned from her needlepoint when Logan Sebastian limped into the room.

It had been a rather quiet day, while Blaise worked on several projects from his bed, which was covered in papers, books and various pens and pencils—and, of course, the calculator that he both cursed and loved at the same time.

“You know, you can get up and move around,” Logan said. “Those stitches won’t pull out. And I know they’ve invented the desk by the seventeenth century. You’ve been in bed all day, again?”

Blaise, as he had done every time he was aware that Logan was nearby, pulled the quilt over his head.

“It is indecent for you to be here!” Blaise stated firmly, from beneath his covers. “Indecent! What will be said if it becomes known?”

“You’re such a baby!”

“Baby?” In exasperation, Blaise pulled the covers away from his head and sat up. “Do you know what I went through to find you? I almost died . . .”

“Yeah, yeah, you almost killed yourself ten times. I heard it all before, with mathematical clarity to the hundredth decimal point. There are people still out there confirming your story because no one believes it despite all the evidence. You didn’t actually kill anyone but somehow the three poachers died anyway. How do you do it? How do you stay at the center of so much trouble and remain untouched?”

“I was not untouched! My horse . . . dragged me and I fell into the river . . .”

“Last count is three times. How do you fall into a river three times?”

“It was not easy. I was lost and I was not looking for a river; I was looking for a road. The river was in my way. And now, let me remind you, Mademoiselle, my sick room is no place for a lady!”

“Who held pressure on the leg wound?”

Blaise felt his anger rising. “That was indecent. To be touched there by a . . .”

Logan glared at him. “I should have let you bleed to death for the sake of decency? Even I know you don’t carry a sword that way. Scabbards were invented for a reason, you big doofus!”

“I lost my horse! I needed something sharp to cut my way . . .”

“You lost more than your horse; you lost your mind. You left a path of destruction through the forest that looked like a herd of elephants had stampeded.”

“I was angry. And the bushes were in my way!”

“Blaise Pascal, world’s greatest terror to vegetation . . .”

Logan . . .”

A new, much louder voice arrived. “Blaise!”

Blaise—not knowing what he had done now, but knowing by the tone of voice that it must be something quite bad—lowered himself back down, ready to bring the quilt over his head again.

Julie Drahuta came roaring in with a handful of papers and a look fit to kill an invading army. “Blaise Pascal! Did Bill Porter put you up to this!”

Then Blaise did pull the quilt over his head. “He told me to create a plan for electrifying Bamberg,” he said through the quilt. “He said it would be a good experience while I recuperate from my injuries.”

“And how did the town council of Bamberg get a copy of your preliminary report? You don’t just ‘electrify’ a seventeenth-century town!”

“There is a plan for a dam and a—”

“Blaise! You just can’t go flooding people’s property like you’re the whole Tennessee Valley Authority all by yourself! If a goat nibbles the bark of a tree anywhere in Europe, not only do they know the name of the tree that was illegally nibbled, but who owns the goat. And then there’s two hundred years of court wrangling to see who pays for the damage to the tree, and whether the goat should be eaten or burned and buried, and who gets compensated for the goat! You can’t talk about flooding parts of Bamberg like you can do it any day of the week and twice on Sunday!”

Blaise did not respond, not quite certain why Mrs. Julie Drahuta seemed so angry.

“Blaise, let me see your face,” Julie demanded.

“I am injured.”

“Blaise! You tripped on your sword and cut your thigh and your calf. Your face is fine! And besides, I hear you were out of the house, wandering around Bamberg, for hours yesterday.”

Blaise lowered the quilt, slowly.

“No piece of paper will leave this room unless I sign it,” Julie said. “And you will not, I mean N-O-T, not talk to anyone other than immediate family members without adult supervision. Is that clear?”

“It is only a preliminary . . .”

“Blaise Pascal! Shall we discuss your preliminary cause of death . . .”

He quickly pulled the quilt back over his head.

“Blaise?”

“What?”

“Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes.”

“How’s the leg?”

“Does not hurt much. I am sorry about the bloodstain. Your hospitality has been commendable.”

“Blaise, I know you mean well, but you can’t go about promising whole towns a working power grid. It gets people’s hopes up. And when reality hits them, they’re going to be angry. . . . Do you understand? Angry people become mobs. You are a French boy in a German town with an angry mob and no electricity. Do you understand what I am trying to prevent here?”

“Yes.”

“Gilberte,” Julie said gently, “sorry to disturb your . . . needlepoint.”

When Julie left, Blaise translated for his sister all that Julie had said. Gilberte responded.

“I didn’t catch all of what your sister said,” Logan said. “Was she talking about me?”

“She, my sister, asked me how do I make so many people so angry with me so quickly. She remembers me being far less upsetting when I was in Paris. No one wished to kill me there.”

Logan shook her head. “That was before you found the power plant and computers.”

“It is a simple task, really. Once you know the maths, the rest is, as you say, a piece of cake. It is certainly far easier to create a plan to electrify Bamberg than the math involved in routing the delivery schedules of blimps. Now that is a problem worthy of me. I begin to see the problem of this ‘Fedex’ and the routing of aircraft with all these passengers and cargo and destinations and arrival times. It is way multivariate.”

“Can you ever stop talking about math?”

“Can you ever stop talking about flying? You would think a bag of hot air is more important than I am!”

“Maybe if you came up in a balloon you would understand.”

“I would like to go up with you in one of those blimps and test my theories concerning atmospheric pressure to see if I was correct. I will let you hold the barometer. My name is used to measure units of barometric pressure so I must insure my former self was, indeed, accurate.”

Logan blurted out with fury, “Only you would be so big-headed you would check yourself to see if you were good enough to be you! You are impossible! I will have to go up at least five thousand feet to begin to see the curvature of your head!”

With that, Logan stormed out of the room

“Gilberte,” Blaise said softly, “she can not be allowed in Paris. She will be the death of all the ladies at court, and there is no way I can become accomplished enough with the sword to defend her honor, let alone mine. What am I to do?”

“Who says we are going to Paris? More importantly, what did she say and what did you say?”

Blaise told her.

“First of all, dear brother, when a lady asks you to accompany her in a device that floats gracefully into the air, do not threaten to take atmospheric measurements and allow her to hold this . . . this . . . barometer!”

“Your husband helped me do just that in this future that will no longer happen. She should be honored to be involved in such a momentous experiment! Your husband was, according to the history books . . .”

“You are lucky she did not slap you across your foolish face! Or hit you with that famous stick of hers! You have all the romance of a . . . of a . . . dead horse.” Gilberte stuttered. “You are incorrigible! No wonder there is no evidence that you married.”

“Romance? With Logan Sebastian? She would kill me. Then, because she is a witch, she would raise me from the dead just so that she could kill me again. She tried to drown me! And that was by accident! I will not bore you with the ways and manners with which she attempted to murder me on purpose!”

Gilberte frowned at her brother. “I would not blame her if she tossed you off this blimp device!”

“I had not thought of that. Maybe I should go up without her. But you see how dangerous she is? How do you think I learned how to use the Taser? I know precisely how effective it is because she tested it on me. Of course, I increased its voltage, but don’t tell her that. Also, I know for a fact that she has her grandmother’s pistol. What kind of woman gives her granddaughter a pistol, I ask you? And with five discharges when one should do more than adequately. Women are emotional enough without the ability to fire such a weapon five times! Romance? Bah! Survival is more the term that should be used when one discusses Logan Sebastian. I am lucky to be alive!”

“Why do you like her?” Gilberte looked at her needlepoint.

There was a long silence.

“She makes me think. She gave me a metal ruler.” Blaise produced the piece of metal from its place under his pillow. “See? It has her name scribed upon it. She told me it was more accurate than the plastic one I was using, and she was right. Logan Sebastian makes me think. That is what I like about her.”

“You mean you had to be cut down from a church tower because this Logan gave you a ruler?”

“She has that effect on me.” Blaise shrugged. “What can I do?”

The Front entranceway to the residence of the Director of Social Services for SoTF

(late afternoon)

“I see your conversation with boy blunder went as well as mine.” Julie laughed when Logan tried, unsuccessfully, to storm past her and out into an unsuspecting Bamberg.

“He’s completely recovered,” Logan grumbled. “He sees me and he starts talking mathematics like it’s a hot article in Seventeen magazine. He wants me to take him up in a blimp so he can read the barometer I’m holding and figure out if he calculated the change in air pressure correctly the first time. I should toss him overboard like rotten ballast and see if he bounces. I mean, with Blaise, once is enough. We got probability and his damned triangles. What else do we need him for?”

Logan,” Julie said sternly, “you really don’t mean that. Stop talking trash like that.”

“Yeah, okay. By the way, thanks for convincing my mom and dad to let me stay. And thanks for helping my parents negotiate the apprenticeship contract. I doubt if they would’ve known what to negotiate over, on their own.”

“You’re welcome, Logan. It’s probably the first apprenticeship contract that’s closer to a late-twentieth-century employment contract than a traditional apprenticeship contract. Except that, unlike a twentieth-century job, you can’t just give notice and quit. You’re bound to Antonio Sorrento for at least ten years.”

Logan looked down. “Yeah, I know.” Then she looked back up at Julie and smiled. “And thanks for giving me a place to stay too. I don’t think my parents would’ve let me stay in the tent. I guess that was a dumb idea.”

“Sibylla needs a roommate who’s closer to her age.”

“It was nice of you to adopt her and her brother. Maybe my mom should adopt a kid or two. She’s good with young kids.” Logan shrugged. “I thought it would be less scary to be out on my own. I mean, I’m not really on my own, but you know what I mean.”

“Not as scary as watching my adopted German daughter trying to teach my up-time daughter how to not blow up a seventeenth-century kitchen. Not as scary as trying to convince the town council of Bamberg that electricity isn’t something you distill from water and that hydroelectric dam means flooding the countryside. Personally, I don’t think Blaise could get a dam big enough to spin a generator fast enough to electrify Bamberg.”

“Blaise was my fault. I saw him and Jacqueline arguing over a book in the library. Something about Pascal’s Triangles. I couldn’t wait to tell my dad about who I found. I thought Dad would be so proud of me. I even gave Blaise my for-real drafting ruler.”

“Your father is proud of you.” Julie shook her head. “And I’ll have to think about whether or not to forgive you for ‘finding’ Blaise.”

“Blaise Pascal was one of my dad’s favorite mathematicians. And now he’s hogging a bed upstairs and calling me ‘indecent.’

“What?”

“He’s still mad that I helped undress him when the medic came. And I was holding pressure until the medic got here. I couldn’t just let go because it was ‘indecent.’ His sister was useless, and his father was worse.”

“You did a good job.” Julie shrugged. “You fell down the stairs very well.”

Logan sniffed. “That was an accident.”

“In more ways than one.” Julie waved Blaise’s preliminary report she still clutched in her hand. “I sent a radiogram to Bill Porter, asking him if he’s behind Blaise’s plan for electrifying Bamberg. Well, I just got a reply back from Bill. He said he asked Blaise to look around and estimate what it would take to begin providing electric power to Bamberg customers. Nothing about a full-blown hydroelectric plant and power distribution network.”

“Blaise goes overboard. So what else is new?” Logan shrugged. “By the way, those weren’t his clothes he was wearing when he arrived. First of all, he doesn’t wear leather. He told me once that he was appalled at wearing some other being’s skin as clothing. What the hell happened to him out there that he was forced to wear leather?”

“That is still being determined. Norman confirmed that he did, in fact, fall into the same river three times. But the cliff he says he fell down was more like a rocky side of a hill, not a cliff. He did, though, taser one of the bandits, and the other two either shot each other or shot themselves somehow. They’re still arguing the forensics of the bullet wounds.”

“I guess I could see how two people would be driven to shoot themselves because of Blaise Pascal, world’s biggest doofus.”

“We’re still trying to figure out where he got the sword and why his hat was a hundred feet up in a tree.” Julie shook her head. “I guess this report makes complete sense. Bill would think it’s funny to saddle me with Blaise Pascal, junior electrical engineer. Ask Blaise what time it is, and he’ll design an atomic clock. Bill had to know that if he told Blaise to look into what it would take to start delivering electricity to Bamberg, we’d get this.” She waved the report. “I saved a kid from hanging himself from a church steeple. I didn’t save Moses from a river in Egypt. The fire department deserves most of the credit anyway.”

“My guess is a gust of wind took his hat off, and he went after it—not looking where he was going, and he stumbled into that poacher’s camp, and when he fell off his horse he bumped his head. Why were they taking his clothes off? Now that’s indecent.”

“Clothes are valuable in this day and age. Even in New York City, up-time, people were robbing each other for expensive sneakers. Took ’em right off the victim’s feet. That green vest of his would have brought some money. Some of what he was wearing was silk. Silk ain’t cheap nowadays.”

“Doofus,” Logan shook her head.

Julie smiled. “Yep. The same doofus who, the moment he hears you up and disappeared, drops everything important to him and grabs a horse and goes off to rescue you.”

“He should know me well enough to know I don’t need rescuing. I made it all the way to Bamberg without a single person being killed—or even injured slightly.”

“We find ourselves in a different time, Logan. Chivalry might have been dead up-time, but here and now, it’s still kicking. Everything is different now.”

“Don’t I know it. Would it have been too much to ask for there to have been just one Cessna in Grantville? Just one? A Piper Cub even. Somebody had that stupid power boat—why not a Beechcraft or a P-51 Mustang. Could you imagine? A Mustang . . .”

“Blaise can’t stop talking about math, and you can’t stop whining about airplanes.” Julie shook her head. “Times change. But some things always remain the same.”

“Like what?” Logan asked.

“The things we do for love.”

****