Louis de Geer refolded the letters from his niece in Grantville. Interesting information, he thought. But he was a powerful and busy man, much like a four-masted battleship. Battleships do not change course easily or on a whim. Verification of Colette's claims was the first order of business.
The person Louis de Geer turned to after reading Colette's letters was Jan de Vries. Jan was Louis' most trusted agent. He had over ten years experience in the Dutch army as an engineer and artillery officer and was a deadly man with a sword. He spoke and read six languages and had demonstrated his loyalty time and again the past eight years. To someone like Louis, Jan was a priceless asset.
“Jan, I want you to investigate this Grantville. I want to know everything you can discover about them. Military, political, economic. And bring back some evidence that they are really from the future. Perhaps a book.”
De Vries nodded. He liked these types of assignments. He had an insatiable curiosity and enjoyed ferreting out information. “You will want maps of the area?”
De Geer nodded.
“Shall I make contact with your niece?” De Vries asked.
De Geer shook his head. “No, she's made up her mind to stay in Grantville. If you make contact she may decide to tell someone.” De Geer smiled. “It is difficult for a spy to do his job if everyone knows he is a spy.”
De Vries laughed. “True. How long should I stay in the town?”
Louis thought for a moment. “At least a month. That will give you plenty of time to get a true impression. Any less and you might miss something important.”
De Vries nodded. “I will leave tomorrow.”
De Vries was glad to finally return to Amsterdam. He reported to De Geer the day after his arrival. He would be preparing a written report, but knew that De Geer would want to get his impressions first hand. And there were always items of importance that were best left out of written reports.
“So their military forces depend on their advanced infantry weapons and the mobility of their vehicles?” De Geer asked. “No artillery?”
De Vries nodded. “Oh, they used military rockets at the battle with the tercio outside Badenburg, but it was not the rockets that broke the tercio. They broke the tercio in less than five minutes with rifle fire and the fire of their ”˜machine gun.' And with less than three hundred riflemen.”
Louis de Geer grunted. Formidable indeed. As long as their ammunition lasted. “Vulnerabilities? Weaknesses? How would you attack them?”
De Vries rubbed his chin. “If I were attacking the town I would use well-trained cavalry in a night attack. Infiltrate them in close, attack at night and set fire to the town at various points. It would be much more difficult for the Americans to use their technical advantages. But as long as their capabilities are not assessed properly, they will have the element of tactical surprise.”
“And the political situation? Who seems to be in charge?”
De Vries smiled. “A man by the name of Mike Stearns is in charge of their Executive Committee. He was head of their coal miner's guild, although guild is a poor description of the organization they refer to as the UMWA. A capable man.”
For De Vries and De Geer it did not matter whether Mike Stearns was a nobleman, coal miner or manure handler. Unlike many in the seventeenth century they concerned themselves more with the aristocracy of ability than the aristocracy of birth.
“But what you will find most interesting, I think, is that Mike Stearns' future consort, who is also a member of the Executive Committee, is Rebecca Abrabanel.”
De Geer blinked in surprise. “Balthazar Abrabanel's daughter?”
De Vries nodded. “And Balthazar Abrabanel has taken up residence in Grantville as well.”
De Geer knew that the last shipment of silver to Gustavus Adolphus from the Netherlands had been sent with Balthazar Abrabanel. “Did you see any of Gustavus Adolphus' men?”
“Yes,” De Vries said, “A few hundred Scottish cavalrymen under an officer named MacKay. They fought together with the Americans against Tilly's tercio at Badenburg.”
So and so thought De Geer. The Abrabanels in Grantville as well as Swedish troops. Obviously an alliance of some kind had been formed, even if it was just an informal one.
“How are the Jews being treated? Are the people resentful of Rebecca Abrabanel?”
De Vries shook his head. “The Americans believe that all religions should be tolerated. They call it ”˜Freedom of Religion.' The secular authorities do not impose a state religion and in turn the churches submit to the secular authorities. It seems to work well.”
Again De Geer grunted. After the years of strife between the Remonstrants and Counter-Remonstrants in the United Provinces, he could see the benefits of such a system. Not to mention it would be good for business. And if nothing else, De Geer was a businessman. If all religions were tolerated, then the Jews would find Grantville to be a haven. He suddenly sat up. And with the Abrabanels already in Grantville and the daughter of one of them intimate with Grantville's leader . . .
De Geer laughed.
De Vries looked at him with a puzzled expression. De Geer explained.
“So you think the Abrabanels will flock to Grantville? That will certainly provide Grantville with capital to expand their economy.”
“It will do more than that,” De Geer said. “With Swedish troops already engaged in some form of alliance with Grantville, inevitably Grantville will come to the attention of Gustavus Adolphus. So what do you think will happen, Jan? Think of the combination: money from the Abrabanels, advanced weapons from Grantville, and Gustavus Adolphus. What is most near and dear to the Swedish King's heart?”
De Vries smiled. “Corpus Protestantorum Evangelicorum.”
De Geer nodded. “Corpus ProtestantorumEvangelicorum. I think the politics of Northern and Central Germany are about to get very interesting indeed.”
Now thought De Geer how can this be turned to the advantage of a shrewd businessman? The first step of course, would be a trip to Grantville. Best however to let the situation ripen a bit. Perhaps March or April. But it was time to bring Colette into the picture. Louis knew that Colette had done an excellent job helping to run his brother-in-law's businesses in Liege, no simple task for a woman, no matter how intelligent. And since she was, according to De Vries, now married to an American, she would have valuable insights into the people and culture of Grantville.
De Geer smiled. “Jan, I think it is time you met my niece, Colette.”
Louis arrived in Grantville the first week of April. A firm believer in family business ties, he brought his son, Laurens, his brother-in-law, Steven Gerard, and his nephews, Hendrick and Louys Trip. A protégé of Hugo Grotius, Dirck Graswinckel, also accompanied them to provide legal advice.
The twenty soldiers who had provided security on the trip from Amsterdam camped out by Josh Modi's crucible steel plant and the rest of the party had rooms at the Modi inn. After several days of talks and sightseeing they found themselves at Bart Kubiak's foundry and cupola furnace.
“So how did you get the kind of cast iron you needed?” Louis de Geer asked. Josh Modi translated.
“We had to do a three-way deal,” Bart said. “We had cast iron from the suppliers outside Grantville, but it wasn't of the quality needed to build steam engine cylinders. The local blast furnaces already had contracts to supply pig iron to their customers. So we offered to sell our pig iron to their customers at a slight discount if the blast furnace owners provided us with cast iron using coke for fuel, which we brought to them. Even then they were leery until we sweetened the deal by offering to build some metal pistons to provide air blast for the furnace instead of leather bellows. Once they saw how efficient the new pistons were, even with their water wheels, they were eager to sell.”
“So how much cast iron did you get?” De Geer asked.
“About one hundred twenty tons,” Bart said. “Financing took awhile. Once we get the kinks in the cupola furnace worked out, we should be able to start pouring a good cast iron. It helps us that the quality of the cast iron actually improves with remelting in a cupola furnace. We'll do a lot of experimentation and proof of principle work this summer. When the blast furnace season starts up again in October we'll be ready. We already have contracts for over a thousand tons of cast iron. The coke we'll transport to each blast furnace and each will be fitted with metal pistons for the air blast. As the cast iron comes in, we'll start the actual work of casting the cylinders and other cast iron parts we need for the steam engines we're building for the electrical plant. Those should be done by early spring of next year and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Bart looked around at the foundry he had put so much work into over the previous seven months. “If we have excess over our needs we can provide cast iron for consumer goods like stoves and pots and skillets. Even cannon for the army. And there's already a couple of companies making inquiries.