November 8, 1620
Richard ran back toward the line of tents, holding in his arms a precious treasure—two lengths of sausage and a whole cabbage. It had been hard in the last week; ripped from their home by the advancing army of Count Tilly, mother dying within a day, Hans who had been sick joining her within just two days. Now all Richard had left in the world was Anna.
The only chance of survival for his sister lay in two equally horrid choices for him. Run away or join the soldiers. This in the midst of a desolate swath sometimes tens of miles across where the army had gathered anything edible like human locusts. With mother dead and Hans already sick, Richard had considered the options. It would have taken at least a day to walk to either side of that stripped land, while hoping that none of the units in the screen saw them. And with Hans already sick, it would have taken two.
The thought that he could have survived alone never came into his mind. He had to take his siblings to safety for life to have any meaning. It was his defiant stand between them and the soldiers that had already murdered his older brother and his father, his vain attempt to keep them away from his mother that had kept them alive up to this point. While he had been beaten into unconsciousness, they had brought him along. They admired the brave, even if foolish. After all, how often did a fourteen-year-old boy armed with only a kitchen knife try to fight seven grown men?
Seeing his brother die and sister waste away had been the reason he had asked the second file lead of the pike regiment if he could become a soldier. Big for his age, healthy from years of farm work, he had been given his chance. Drilling at night with a pike, carrying his sister by day after Hans died and she fell ill, they had merely smiled and shook their heads. But training meant he ate better, and Anna did as well.
Now the battle was over. How he had even survived was a mystery to him. Anna had been so pale this morning when she sent him off, giving the little hand motion he remembered so well from mother. During the sack of the enemy train, he had not been grabbing wine or beer, women or goods, he had instead grabbed food.
Now he could see her. She was leaned back against a tree as he had left her, and he dropped the food in front of her. “Anna, come, eat.” She merely sat quietly, head forward, asleep. “Anna.” he chided. “We have food for days, but you must eat.” Still she slept. He reached out, and when he touched her face he knew.
While he had been in battle, risking his life for her, God had stolen the last link to the peaceful world he had lived in.
Hartmann dreamed yet again as the boy he had once been consigned his sister to the grave, taking his own rosary to put in her hands. He would never have faith in God again.
June 30, 1631
Near Badenburg, Thuringia
As was habit after so many years, Hartmann came awake before the dawn lit the sky. He was buried in what only could be called a puppy pile of sleeping bodies. Six children, five boys and a single girl, were huddled around him under his blanket. It wasn’t the cold, it was the fact that of all the men in this mercenary column, he was the one who took the young under his wing to protect until one of the camp followers took over. Gently he moved until they were rearranged in a pile without him. After all, just because he got up this early didn’t mean they couldn’t sleep a little longer.
He walked over to the fire where one of the men sat sipping his morning broth. He only nodded, picking an empty pot which he filled with water, and set it to heat. Once heated, he moved aside, stripped off his shirt, and began washing himself.
He threw the water out, and put his shirt back on as the morning drum rolled.
Camp followers and soldiers alike called him Lehrer Hartmann, Teacher Hartmann. Since his first battle, he had always been the most patient with the new men. Within a month of becoming a pikeman, you could see him patiently explaining how wood would crown, that by turning the heavy pole until it did, the shaft would run straight, making it stronger and less ready to break. Within three years, he was a file lead, steadying the men of his rank as they marched at the half step into the fray, calming those around him with his shouted instructions.
Then he had picked up a gun from a corpse in his fifth year as a soldier. It had been both a great boon, and the one thing that had almost killed him because of the haphazard training. While all you needed was courage to stand in the pikes, you also needed patience and a steady hand to be a good arquebusier. Again his native skills came into play. He began teaching all he learned to the new men. For the last four years, he had been sergeant of arquebusiers.
As the drums rolled again he opened his pack. He walked back to the children, nudging them awake with his boot. He passed most of the food he had out to his boys and sent them to help around camp. Lisle, the one girl, waved to him, running with his pack to the wagons as he walked over to the assembly area.
Now back to the fire. He poured a mug of broth, wishing it were cider. The farmers had moved their cider into Badenburg rather than let the army seize it. For a moment he considered walking over to the wall alone, buying a jug to drink later. He had done it before.
But no. The army was roused. They would have to demand tribute instead. He had a slice of cheese, a four-inch piece of sausage, and bread as he waited for the men to assemble.
He patiently filled his bandolier of powder chargers; the “twelve apostles” of a soldier’s creed for his caliver. Some of the other arquebusiers trudged over as he finished. He looked at the shamefaced men. “You spent it gambling instead of on powder again? And no doubt they plied you with wine or beer.” At their nods, he took out a small folded paper, looking at each name. “Only a fool drinks when he is at dice. Look, if powder were free, it would make sense. There is nothing more foolish than going into battle without being able to fight. Especially with that arschloch of a priest. He might think you cowards.” Hartmann always spent his coin on powder, ingots of lead, slow match, and wads. When these idiots didn’t have the money, he would supply them what he could, charging the cost of two measures of powder for one, two ounces of lead for one, an inch and a half of match for one, and merely gave them the wadding.
He was out of powder at the end. After the battle he would speak to the quartermaster. Hopefully they would loot enough powder for the next battle and the next after it.
“Right. Pack your bags in the wagons and assemble here.”
Conrad was giving his instructions, and Richard listened with half an ear. “Usual drill, lads. When we get close enough, the captain will send a parley forward to demand the town’s surrender. Just watch for other gunners or cavalry as always. Hartmann?”
“The lieutenant will be on your side of the formation today.” His tone was apologetic.
“Yes, Conrad.” Hartmann put on his helmet. The strap was broken, so he left it unhooked.
The men split into their flanking columns, and moved to protect the tercio when the battle began. Hartmann took his position to the far left of the gunmen. From here, the church steeple could be seen, and not much else. On the right there was a road, and he looked at the enemy forming their own line coolly. Idiots.
“That fool Hoffman is going to stand in the open!” He looked back as the lieutenant came around the arquebusiers. The man looked every inch a warrior. Pity he couldn’t pour water out of his own boots without a servant to do it for him. “Just some skirmishers in the brush below the hill on his flank and some ragtag cavalry on each end. I think it will be an easy day, lads.” His opinion of the mercenary leader facing them didn’t impress Hartmann.
Hartmann wasn’t the only one who thought him stupid. Calling a group of men, all of whom were older than you, ‘lad’? Skirmishers meant some rifles, though he could fire two shots in the time it took a rifleman to load even one, so that didn’t worry him.
“This time, you will follow orders, Sergeant.”
“Ja, Mein Herr.”
The boy flushed. “I mean it! If I give an order and you do not instantly obey, I’ll have you flogged until I see the color of your spine!”
In the months since the boy had joined the column he had proven pretty much incapable of command, unless screaming incoherently qualified. He became even more furious when Hartmann expanded on his usually confused orders. Especially when a more senior officer would come by and praise the lieutenant for his foresight. A pity he wasn’t improving with time.
“Damn you, Hartmann, I expect a reply!”
For just a moment, Hartmann thought to reply by “accidentally” shooting the man. It wouldn’t be the first time after all. “You are in command, lieutenant. Do I have permission to load?”
“If we do not load now, we will have to stop in the middle of the fight to load when the enemy skirmishers fire.” Hartmann explained patiently yet again.
“Oh, yes. See to it!”
“Load your muskets!” He shouted. “Fill the pan, close the pan, pour the rest down the barrel, put in the wad, put in the ball, ram it home, muskets at the ready! Müller! Light the matches!” The men went through the drill he had pounded into their heads, sometimes literally. But there were some who needed the step by step instructions still. When the last of the men were ready, he glanced at the lieutenant. “Ready to fire on command.”
The boy huffed, then looked ahead. Hartmann merely stood, waiting. The drums rolled, and Hartmann shouted, “Forward!” To the right the tercio began its slow measured pace. In a looser formation, the arquebusiers moved more sedately. The tercio was angled to come between the hill and Hoffman’s pike formation. The brush at the bottom of the hill was about three hundred yards away.
It was slow going. Pikes did not move rapidly even on a route march. On an advance to battle they were a tortoise barely able to turn. The arquebusiers, who carried less weight, could outdistance them easily, so Hartmann was constantly making sure the men dressed their ranks and didn’t get ahead of the pikes.
At about one hundred yards, the world changed for Hartmann. He heard a shout, then a sound he had never heard before, like hammers beating on a baulk of wood very fast as if it were a drum. Hartmann heard cries from the tercio. Men were going down as if shot, but all he saw was a small amount of smoke coming from the edge of that brush ahead of them. Now there was more, scattered through the brush, but still far less than any group of riflemen would make.
Hartmann looked at the lieutenant. “We are out of range.”
The boy drew his wheel-lock, setting the hammer and pointing it at Hartmann’s face. “Fire, damn you!”
Hartmann shouted. “Halt! Make ready!” The men stopped, pointing their weapons at the still-distant brush. “First rank, present!”
“Sergeant, we will hit nothing!” One of the men shouted.
“Take. Your. Aim!” There was silence from his men. “Give fire!” There was a roar, and billows of smoke shot toward their tormentors. “First rank, fall to the rear and reload! Second rank step forward! Front rank, fire!” Hartmann was already reloading, and except for the few dull wits who needed the help of one of their fellows, all of his men were obeying. As each rank fired, they took a step to the right, moved to the rear, and the next rank stepped forward to fire in turn. In less than a minute 200 balls were hurled at the enemy.
“How many did we get?” The lieutenant shouted, trying to see through the cloud of smoke.
“At this range, likely nothing” Hartmann told him.
“I did say we were out of range, Mein Herr.”
“Then fire again!”
Hartmann merely looked at him. “Again? From here?” His tone was acid.
The boy screamed, and the pistol he still brandished came down. Hartmann merely stood there. He had always faced his enemy with a cold glint in his eyes, a determination that they might kill him, but nothing would break him. It was no different now.
The side of the boy’s head exploded, and he slid boneless from the saddle. Hartmann looked toward the enemy that was now shooting at his men. From what movement they could see, they had thought maybe a hundred men were there. Considering the fire they were taking, he revised that to maybe six or seven hundred, half firing with the other half handing preloaded rifles forward. But they couldn’t keep that up for long. There weren’t enough rifles in all of Germany. They had to get closer! “At the double! Close to range!” His men jogged forward.
Hartmann ran into, then through the cloud of smoke, and still his men followed. Seventy-five yards, closer, then he shouted for a halt. The men were already leveling their muskets.
Suddenly he felt a blinding pain and went down on his back. Something hit the ground beside him, and he recognized the plumes from his own helmet. An arquebusier had put two holes in his helmet, and no doubt through his head as well.
Someone grabbed his arms. It was Müller. He wanted to tell the man to run, to pick up the musket he had dropped and keep fighting! But even though he could see the world still, he knew he was dead. No one survived a musket ball going through his head. The man was breathing heavily, trying to drag his sergeant to safety. Then there was a meaty thunk, and Müller went over backwards.
Somehow Hartmann rolled on his stomach. Perhaps the old stories of revenants rising from the dead were true. He crawled his way to the young man’s side, lifting the body to his lap. Something far smaller than a bullet had punched through the breastplate he wore.
“Don’t worry, lad.” He whispered. “Once we have won, they will see to that.” He heard a whooshing sound, and streamers of smoke shot up from behind the hill ahead. His eyes tracked them to where they exploded in the tercio.
The tercio was collapsing. The battle was only minutes old and the tercio was breaking! He sat there stupidly watching the men throwing away their weapons to run faster. His own men had broken when he went down, though a dozen or so were still scattered around him. There was a horn, and the enemy cavalry charged out, moving to cut off the retreat. Some kind of two-wheeled snarling carts, ridden like horses, came past him headed to the camp as well. Then with a rumbling, huge war carts came around the hill to follow. Over at the road, the Protestants were rallying and charging toward the camp.
The camp. The children! He gently set Müller down, then pushed himself to his feet. He had to do something to protect the ones he had sheltered for so long. Staggering, he walked toward the distant camp. As he passed the dead officer, he picked up the wheel-lock. He would need it.
“Will you get a load of this?” Addison Miller commented, motioning with the barrel of his rifle. The trucks had stopped. The Protestant mercenaries were hunkered down being good little POWs. Bobby Hollering looked around at the man trudging toward them. He wore some kind of bandolier with wooden tubes strung from it, and the left side of his face was bloody from a nasty scalp wound. He also held a wheellock with two more hanging from his belt.
The man stopped, eyes coming up, looking at the camp and the men before him. Then he angled to go around them.
“Halt!” Bobby shouted. He racked the bolt on his rifle. The man merely looked at them, then at the weapon in his own hand. Several men aimed, but the man just stood there, looking at the weapon as if trying to remember what to do with it. He finally got the hammer down against the wheel, but he still hadn’t lifted it.
“Tut unserem Lehrer nicht weh!” A high-pitched voice screamed, and they jerked around, looking at the pitiful tents. Six children, the oldest maybe eleven, were running from the camp screaming at them. They passed around the men, and hugged the injured man. He looked down as if counting them, and collapsed to his knees, then slumped over.
But they weren’t beating on him or screaming. Now they were making consoling sounds, the girl, all of maybe eight, was wiping his face with her skirt. A couple of the boys were facing the Americans defiantly, shouting the phrase again and again.
Addison walked over, picking up the wheellock before stepping back. “Now how do you—” He yelped as the gun went off, the bullet going God alone knew where.
Hartmann looked up. The children, they were safe. He could die in peace now. A hand with some cloth was wiping his face, and he looked up. Black hair, not gold, but he was still confused. “You should be in heaven, Anna, not here.”
“Oh, Teacher, I am Lisle,” she sobbed. She wiped the tears from her face, getting his blood on her cheek. He reached up to wipe it away, and that was the last thing he remembered.
Late July, 1631
He knew he wasn’t dead. If the priests had anything at all right, he should either be hearing choirs of angels or the screams of the damned. Instead he felt as if an imp was pounding on his head in time with his heartbeat. Since he was alive, he decided to open his eyes.
He was laying on a cot, covered in a nice-smelling sheet. Sheets of some kind of translucent material hung around him, and to the sides he could see other beds. Figures moved behind those sheets, walking down the line of cots. He felt around his body. His clothes, his weapons, his money were gone. The curtain was pushed aside, and a Moorish woman stepped through. She was looking at some flat piece she held, and when she looked up, her eyes widened in surprise.
“You’re finally awake.”
He understood her. After eleven years, he could make himself understood from Warsaw to the North Sea, or from the Baltic to the Papal States. So he knew at least some English. He merely nodded.
“Would you like some water?”
She got a cup made of something he had never seen, filled it, and put a straw into it. Rather than letting him hold it, she held it where he could suck the liquid into his mouth. He sighed in contentment when it was taken away.
“Now you wait right here, and I’ll get Dad.” She patted him on the arm and was gone.
Dad? He wasn’t sure what she had meant. But as for staying here, he could barely raise his hand. He ran his left hand over his head. Instead of a wound, he found a line of a scar that ran from above his left eye to his skull above his ear. “What hit me?”
“From the damage, I would say a NATO round.” Another Moor, this one male, had entered with that thin plank.
“Term from our time. Good thing it wasn’t one of your guns, or one of our hunting rounds.” The man came over, sitting in the same chair the woman had used. “We found your helmet. If it had been one of yours, the bullet would have bounced around instead of blowing through.” He made a motion like a square a couple of times rapidly. “Would have blown through your head as well. If it had been a hunting round, it would have mushroomed. NATO rounds have full metal jackets, so it went through, sliced you up, and went on. Though it rung your bell pretty bad.”
“I had no bell.”
“Figure of speech.” Whatever that meant. “It hit making your brain bounce around inside your skull. But nothing else. You’ve been out of it for almost three weeks.”
“Out of what?”
“Sleeping while your body repaired itself.” The man leaned forward. “The scar is pretty much healed.”
“You are the doctor?”
“I am a doctor, but Doc Adams stitched you up. I am just the doctor on rounds.”
Hartmann looked at the man, then at the bed. “I would pay him if someone had not stolen my money belt.”
“Stolen? No, your clothes were sent to the laundry. Your guns and the money belt are in storage for you when you get out of here.”
“Why did you not merely let me die?”
The Moor sighed. “We don’t do things that way here. Our rules of war say we must heal you if we can. Like the bullet that hit you. It is supposed to be less cruel.”
“When may I leave? And where will I be taken when I do?”
“Taken? Every man from the battle was vetted by a woman we trust named Gretchen. She saw you. If they were bad ones, she said no, and we kicked them out. But she took one look at you back around the first of the month and said, ‘He is a good man.’ So as to where you go, mister, you can go where you want or stay. We won’t stop you.”
Hartmann pondered this. No recruitment at the point of a sword? No “convert or die’? He shook his head, which made his headache worse.
“Look, until your head is better, you are going nowhere.”
“May I have some things? I had a pipe and tobacco.”
“Can’t smoke here. But I can have a wheelchair brought and you can go outside and have your smoke.”
“You’re welcome, Teacher.”
Hartmann looked at him oddly. “Why do you call me that?”
“That’s what the kids called you. We finally figured out they were shouting, ‘Don’t hurt our teacher’ when you were found.” The Moor cocked his head. “I didn’t think teachers traveled with the armies.”
Hartmann shook his head again. “It is merely what they call me. I am the one who teaches the young men how to fight. And protects them until they can.”
“Well, it saved your ass when they piled on you. One of the guys was ready to pop a cap in you when you came up with that gun.” The Moor made a note on the flat piece he had gotten from the young woman. He poured some water, then pulled a bottle of some kind from his jacket and shook two pills out. “Here, for your headache. In the morning we will be moving you from here to another facility.”
Dutifully he swallowed the pills with some water. Then he lay there until he fell asleep again. He was still wondering why young goats would call him anything.
September 28, 1631
Hartmann spent much of his time sleeping. He would wake up enough to eat, but even that tired him. The one time he was awake enough to ask for his pipe again, he was helped into a chair with large wheels and pushed through the hall to the outdoors. But his clay pipe had shattered when he fell on it. He thought he wouldn’t be able to smoke, though one of the people attending him gave him a cigarette that once.
A social worker, whatever that meant, came to talk to him, explaining what had occurred. A town from the far future had been dumped into Germany. It was weapons of that future that had slaughtered his comrades so readily. He would be allowed to get well. He could even stay if he wished. When asked if he wanted to join the army defending this new place, he merely shrugged. He was told the children, even some of his comrades had asked to see him, but he refused. He’d always hated looking weak; it meant you were prey. When he was well, he would find them.
He was constantly amazed by the entire town’s attitude on how to treat him. Instead of letting him lay on the bed in his own filth, they would bring what they called a bedpan and whisked his waste away. They bathed him at least twice a week with a cloth. That more than anything else made him sure they were not of this world. The building appeared to be for the care of the elderly, more than he had ever seen in one place before.
But lying in bed palled. The week after he had awakened, he was walking, though as slow as a man at the end of his life. But he grew stronger, and today his things had been brought. The clothes were cleaned and repaired, and the money belt lay atop them. The gems he had saved over his years were still there, along with the silver and gold coins he had put into it. He felt it must be a nursing order sworn to poverty and meaning it. Perhaps he could speak to whoever was in charge and find a place for Lisle.
They even brought his weapons. The caliver, the wheel-locks; he remembered picking up the one from the dead officer so now he had three and his sword. He armed himself and walked out. There was a long counter they called a desk for some reason, with a couple of women dressed in scandalous attire working in front of odd boxes. He stopped, fumbling in the pouch on the belt. “Please. Who do I pay?”
“Oh, you don’t have to pay.”
He shrugged, setting down the coins. “Then this is for the order. Do you have places for a child? I have been watching over some children.”
“Order?” The woman talking to him looked confused, then her eyes widened. “Oh, no, this is not a religious order. Just a geriatrics clinic. We take care of the elderly.”
“Then is there a monastery?”
“We don’t have one in town,” the other woman replied.
“Then I must find a Jew. Where is the Rathaus? Somewhere I can find guild masters who can take apprentices?”
“Why do you need a Jew?” the second woman asked sharply.
He shrugged. “If I am to sell a stone to pay for their apprenticeships, I would need a Jew. At least if I want an honest appraisal.”
“Appraisal?” the first one asked.
Hartmann reached into his belt and laid one of the rubies on the counter.
The women stood, looking at it, and their eyes widened.
“It looks like it’s maybe three carats!” the second one said.
“At least!” The first one leaned back. “You’ll have to see Mr. Roth. He’s the jeweler. And, yes, he’s Jewish.” She nudged the coins. “You don’t need to leave these, either.”
“Thank you.” He put the money and gem away, and walked to the door outside. The first time he had seen this town, this Grantville, he had been amazed. Streets as smooth as ice, buildings of such size that he had not tired of looking at them when he went outside. It was afternoon. He would have to find somewhere to sleep for the night, then find the children—
He spun at the shout. A vehicle, what they called a bus, had pulled up, and children were pouring into it from a building nearby. One of the long-haired boys was running toward him, a brightly colored pack of some kind on his back. An instant before he was hugged, he recognized the child.
“Lisle?” He held her at arm’s length. “Why are you dressed in boy’s clothes? It is a scandal!”
She laughed, a sound that made his heart brighter. “Oh no, teacher. These people don’t care how you dress!” Her hands fluttered over his head, then she was hugging him again. “Finally you are well! You are well, true?” He nodded.
“The boys. Where are they?” He asked.
“We do not live in the same place. All of us will soon be living with families who can take care of another child, but no one could take six of us!”
He stood. “Now that I am well again, I will see about getting you all apprenticeships. Do you know where I must go to ask?”
“But what about school?”
He sighed. “I cannot afford to send all of you to school, dear one. Perhaps Michael. But not all six.”
“But they do not charge for school here. All of us are in school. Well except for Dieter. He is too young yet. He goes to daycare.”
“He goes to somewhere they watch him?”
“Oh, it is what they call a place for children who are too young to go to school.” She stepped back. “Come, Lehrer. Come see where I am living now!”
The building had been recently constructed with bunks along the walls, and a woman in proper clothes was seated at a desk near the door. She stood, striding toward them. “Lisle! Why did you not take the bus?” she demanded.
“I am sorry, Frau Lenz. I saw my protector when we were camp followers. He has been in the hospital all this time.”
The woman looked up, and her stern gaze softened. “You are der Lehrer?” She walked over, taking his hand. “God will thank you for saving the children you did.”
“Perhaps,” he replied. I believe that God and Satan have spent the last thirteen years sitting in a tavern, drinking beer and playing chess with humanity, occasionally changing sides on the board when some damn priest boasts of His support so He can say He is with all of us. At the moment He is probably too drunk to watch what I do. “Do you know where the boys are?”
“Oh, they are in the next building. There was no orphanage here, no monastery or convent, so my husband and I offered to take care of them with help from other women who needed work until they find homes for the children.”
“Then who pays for them?” he asked sharply. “The church?”
“Oh, no. They have something called ‘social services’ which deals with such things here in Grantville. The people pay for it with their taxes.”
He snorted. All well and good, but charity only went so far. “I must find a jeweler named Roth. I will help.”
“You are but a soldier! How can you help?”
He opened his belt and slid out the six stones he had. “With these once I have sold them.”
“It is very generous. But I would keep most of it for yourself. There are enough good honest people in this town to deal with most of our needs. They have taken old clothing from their own people to dress them, though some have become too much American.” Lenz commented, glancing down sternly.
“It is more comfortable to dress this way,” Lisle protested.
“Lisle,” he said.
She looked down, chastened. “I am sorry, Frau Lenz, Teacher.”
“Don’t you have studying to do, little one?” The girl ran off.
“We have heard so many good things about you, Teacher.”
“It is a title, not my name. I am Richard Hartmann.” He looked at the stones, then put them away. “Now, this jeweler. Where is his shop?”
“You must have passed it on the way.” The woman went out and directed him.
The middle-aged man looked at the stones through a small glass he screwed into the hollow of his eye. “Yes. Fine stones.”
Hartmann shrugged. “Whenever I had too much weight in coins, I would buy stones from a Jew if I could find one.” He shrugged again. “They weigh much less.”
“I understand.” The man took a machine on his counter, and began punching small buttons. “Do you have a bank account yet?”
Hartmann snorted. “Only a fool puts money in a place that will be the first target of a sack.”
“Then you have no money.”
Hartmann lifted his hand and opened it.
“All right, no money from Grantville.” The jeweler opened a drawer, taking out a folder, then began to write. “They are not faceted, though they have been cut. I can buy them as is. But I do not keep that much cash available. I will write you a check . . . a letter of deposit. Take it to the bank and they will assist you.”
“Good. And the store beside this one? Who owns it?”
“Oh, when the town was taken in the Ring of Fire, he was out of town. Why?”
“There is a pipe in the window I wish to purchase.”
A few minutes later, one of the people from the mayor’s office arrived, opened the door and sold him the pipe.
“Mr. Walker?” Belva Nash stood at the door to the office. “We have a down-timer with a check written by Mr. Roth.”
Coleman Walker didn’t even look up. “So? He pays a lot of bills that way. How much?”
Instead of answering, she handed it to him. The bank manager looked at the check, then stood and walked out into the bank lobby. If it had been up-time, he would have taken one look at the weapons the man carried, the ease with which he carried them, and hit the silent alarm. But the man was merely looking up at the electric lights. As Walker walked toward him, suddenly the German looked down. He had the eyes of a wolf and a livid scar on his head. “Herr. . .”
“Richard Hartmann. And your name?”
“Coleman Walker, the bank manager.”
“Is there a problem?”
“Only if you want to take the money with you. We do not have enough cash on hand. If you deposit this,” he held up the check, “I can give you enough for a week or more, and you can withdraw as needed.”
“It is a lot of money?”
“Several thousand of our dollars.”
“And how much would I need for a week?”
“With prices going up as they are, maybe a couple of hundred. Wait, do you have a place to stay yet?” At Hartmann’s negative, Walker sighed. “Better make it five hundred. Belva, see to it.”
“A moment. They have built two orphanages side by side not far away. Do they have an account?”
“Yes they do.”
“Then take one-quarter of this and put it in their account.”
“That is generous.”
“They now take care of children I sheltered. It is their due for school and apprenticeships.” He considered. “And the hospital, take another quarter for them. They would not let me pay.”
It was short work to fill out the papers, and he took the small folder and paper money he was given. “Where can I get a meal? And a place to stay?”
“The Thuringen Gardens,” Belva replied, giving directions. “Addison Miller can find you a place, though you might end up in the refugee camp.”
Miller looked vaguely familiar and greeted him warmly, explaining that he had been one of the men Hartmann had confronted after the battle. When he found out how much money he had in the bank, the real estate agent asked him how much room he needed and showed him a ten-by-ten storage shed, on an older couple’s land. It was small, but it was more than enough for him. He spent a few hours clearing the building out, moving the contents into the garage of the home. The agent gently reminded him that he didn’t have to be fully armed in town, but after so many years he felt naked without something. So he left his caliver and wheellocks in the shed, carrying only his sword and dagger when he headed off to dinner.
Hartmann heard the raucous singing a block away and smiled. Drunken song had never sounded so good. He saw a vehicle coming and paused to wait for it to pass when he heard a woman scream.
“Can’t you read, bitch?” A large up-timer threw a small woman into the street, causing the vehicle to slam to a stop with a blat of the horn.
Hartmann leaped forward, pulling the sheathed sword from his belt. He swept it to take the man’s legs from under him and nonchalantly tapped him on the head with it before setting the weapon down. Then he went into the street, holding out his hand. The woman squeaked, eyes looking past him wide with shock. Hartmann turned and dropped at the same time. A thin staff whipped past where his head had been.
He scrambled forward, right hand catching and stopping the staff coming back. He punched the second man between the eyes. Hartmann drew the dagger as a fat man came running out of the building with a truncheon, yelling. Hartmann watched his eyes.
“All right, that is quite enough! Beasley, put it down!” someone shouted behind Hartmann. “Legte die Waffe nach unten!” he shouted in very bad German. Hartmann lifted his hand from the weapon and held it in plain sight before returning to help the small woman to her feet.
He was only half-listening to the argument between the big man in some brown clothes and the fat man with the apron that had come out. At a mention of a sign he looked at the window and read the hand-written sign there. Another man dressed also in the brown clothes came up to him with a small notebook in his hand. “Name, bitte?”
“My English is better than your German. My name is Richard Hartmann.”
“How long have you been in town, Herr Hartmann?” the deputy gladly went to English.
“I do not know. I was at Badenburg. I was let out of your hospital today.”
“Ah, one of the guys from the battle. What happened?”
Hartmann filled him in, his hand caught in a death grip by the woman. When the deputy began questioning the woman, Hartmann translated.
“Marta Karcher. I am from Halle.”
“All right, Marta. Can you tell me what happened?”
“I arrived this day, fleeing the army. I was so hungry, and I smelled the food.” she motioned and sniffed. Both of the men breathed in. It smelled like roast boar and onions. “I went in and asked for food in return for work. But they shouted at me, called me ‘kraut’ and whore, then that one threw me out.” She pointed at the one who was still shaking his head.
“He called you a food?” Hartmann laughed.
“It’s also an insulting word for a German. Stay here, please.” The man closed his notebook, then walked over to stand talking with his partner. Then in what was obviously a planned move, the opposite men went to the separated people.
“They claim she came in offering to take every man in the place to bed, and when they refused her price, they kicked her out. Then her pimp, that means you, mein Herr, attacked those two men before drawing down on them and demanding the money she asked.” The German was bad, but he understood after a short explanation of the accusation.
“If you wish to take me to court, I can swear in truth that I had not met this woman before that schlaff schwanz threw her into the street. If they had not risked her life, I would have let it pass.”
The man was looking up words in a book. When he got to ‘limp dick’ he snickered. He held up his hand and walked back over to speak with his partner. Both chuckled, looking at Hartmann. Then the man who appeared in charge walked to the vehicle and sat for a moment. Then he came back, motioning the people together.
“Beasley, if you’re going to lie, at least check what can be found out. He,” he motioned to Hartmann, “was released from the hospital today. So there is no way he’s running a string of girls. And she,” he motioned to Marta, “only arrived this morning. So he’s telling the truth, and your lies don’t work. Now get back in your hole, and stop bothering honest people. Scat!”
“Jordan, you damn kraut lover!”
“I am not a ‘kraut.’. Hartmann pointed at the sign. “I am not German, I am Bohemian. Am I free to go, Herr Jordan?”
“Yeah. Just stay away from the peanut gallery.”
Hartmann loosened his hand from the iron grip. “Come with me, Frau.” He pointed over at the building where the singing was coming from. “I can afford to buy you a meal. And perhaps we can find someone who can suggest a place to work.”
October 3, 1631
Hartmann picked up the last bushel basket of apples from the edge of a field, taking them to the cart. He wiped his brow, then sipped some water. The up-timer in charge signaled, and Hartmann joined the tired men heading back to town. They ended up at the Gardens. “A pitcher!” he shouted, taking a seat in relief. Marta came with the order, smiling at him. “Thank you.” He handed her the money, then poured for his compatriots.
“Back-breaking work,” one of them commented. He remembered the man from the pike line.
Hartmann reached across snagging his tankard before he could pick it up. “Well if a beer is too heavy, allow me, Franz.”
“Damn you, Lehrer! You know what I meant!” Franz laughingly stole Hartmann’s tankard in return. They all laughed and drank. Someone came in, and suddenly there was a shout. “The up-timers are sending the army to Jena!”
“Madness. What can Jena pay? Little money from paying tribute before, and only students to help,” Franz mumbled. “I stayed out of the army for a reason.”
“It is not for everyone, even when we were soldiers.” Carl tipped his tankard. “Maybe Hartmann there liked it, but I did not.”
“It is all I know how to do.” Hartmann drank. He had considered joining the army, but the reasons he had fought were as dead as his family. “I haven’t been called up.”
Carl shook his head. “That’s right, men. He was in the hospital when we got that talk. Lehrer, they have volunteers. People who fight to keep this,” he waved at the crowd around them, “safe. No forcing you to fight, no gold in your purse because you offer. Just fighting to save your family.”
“I have no family.”
“But you have those Studenten you always watched over.”
“And do you think they will not try to come here if they sack Jena?”
“Only if they want their dicks in a sausage grinder.” Hartmann replied. They laughed. “But I am unsure. All I know of life is fighting and being hated even by those you fight for.”
Franz held up his tankard. ” ’For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ / Chuck him out, the brute!/ But it’s Saviour of ‘is country when the guns begin to shoot!’ ”
Hartmann paused. “That was very wise, Franz.”
The man chuckled. “I heard it on a cartoon in the house I live in. You should really watch Dudley Do-Right.”
For the rest of the pitcher, Hartmann was silent, brooding. He stood, “I am for bed.”
The night was brisk, and he stopped outside the Gardens, lighting his pipe. The Zippo lighter was a godsend if you didn’t have a campfire. As he smoked, he walked home to the former storage shed. There was noise from a building with an entire wall that lifted, and he looked in. He thought he remembered the man, but didn’t know from where. Hartmann stepped back, hands out at his sides as the man turned, a long-barreled weapon in his hands.
“Oh, sorry.” The man waved the weapon. “You’ve never seen one of these.” he waved for Hartmann to approach. As he came into the light, the man looked first curious, then delighted. “We weren’t introduced, but I remember you. When we met you looked like something out of a horror movie walking toward us, and still ready to fight. Like Night of the Living Dead.” At Hartmann’s confused expression, he waved his hand. “Never mind. Name’s Bobby Hollering, I’m a gunsmith. Check it out, M1 Garand. First semi-automatic service rifle in history.”
Hartmann took the weapon. “It is not as heavy as the one I have.”
Bobby took it back sliding the bolt back, and handed it back. Hartmann looked into the well. “I do not understand how it operates, but I know little of your weapons. Are you going to march to Jena?”
“No. Worth more here, even though I am a decent shot.”
“I am not sure I should go.” Hartmann looked at the weapon. “I have done nothing but fight and kill for so long.”
“Well as my daddy always said, it’s a choice between doing what is necessary, or doing nothing. I know of a lot of horrible things that happened just during my life because people didn’t take a stand. But they want me here to repair some of the weapons, so I’m stuck in town.”
So true. Hartmann remembered his own futile stand so many years before. He hadn’t fought for glory; he had fought to protect his own from evil men. He handed the weapon back again. “Would you know where I go to volunteer?”
“Sure. I can call over and let them know you’re coming. But you don’t have one of our guns, do you?”
Hartmann shook his head. “I have my caliver, my wheel-locks and a sword.”
“Then you’re undergunned. Wait a minute.” Bobby popped up and a few moments later came back with what looked like a rifle. “My daddy’s old Winchester 1887 lever-action shotgun. I think I have the only ten-gauge that came through with us, so unless it is reloaded, there aren’t going to be more shells for it. Good thing it will take black powder if they just figure out how to make primers.” He first showed Hartmann how to load, then handed over the weapon and two partial boxes of shells. “Only about fifteen shells remaining in double ought or slugs. Got a shitload of birdshot I can probably repack.”
“Why?” Hartmann held up the gun. “You do not know me.”
“Someone who was ready to fight even when he knew he couldn’t win? Who was saved because a buncha kids got in the way screaming, ‘Don’t hurt our teacher’? What else do I need to know about you?”
Hartmann looked at the grimly functional weapon. “How much do you want for it?”
“Want for it? Not selling it to you, I’m loaning it. That’s my daddy’s old piece. Shoot, even if there are no shells, there’s a place on the wall for it. Bring it back, y’here?”
“Very well. And how much then for the shells?”
“Boy, you expect to buy your ammunition?”
“For the last eleven years, yes.”
“What kind of asshole makes you pay to fight?”
“One who pays you to fight and then charges you for what you need to fight.”
“Not the way we do it. Take the shells and police your brass—pick them up off the ground after. I have enough primers and powder to reload them a couple of times at least.”
“Thank you, Herr Hollering.”
Bobby got on the phone, and told him where to go.
“Another volunteer?” Tom Simpson asked.
“Yes. Herr Hollering did not get his name, but he seemed steady.” Heinrich Schmidt told him.
Simpson merely shook his head. They had already assigned their people, though they could use some more steady men.
The door opened, and for a moment nothing happened. Then Heinrich was on his feet hugging the man. “Lehrer! By God’s name, I thought you dead!”
The man returned the hug. “I have been getting that a lot the last few days.”
“Gut Tom, this is Hartmann, we called him Teacher. A lot of our young men learned their trade under his gentle hand.”
The huge American looked at Hartmann. “We can use him. Do you have a gun?”
Hartmann held up the shotgun.
Heinrich let him go, stepping back. “One thing, old friend. I am the junior officer.”
Hartmann looked at Heinrich for a long moment. “No problem for me.”
October 6, 1631
Hartmann knelt behind the barricades they had placed in the road. He looked to the left and the right. Some of the men looked nervous. “Have heart, lads. This time we have the good guns!” Some of the men chuckled, and the tension eased.
“Will you look at that?” Johannes who knelt beside him commented. Hartmann looked at him, then in the direction the young man pointed. Two people were setting up a folding table. Women from the hair, which was the only way to tell with these up-timers. Then one of them sat, a rifle aiming forward. The one beside her used some huge tube and began making notes. What was this? Some woman thinking she was a warrior?
He looked back toward the enemy. About a thousand men and twice that of camp followers. They were about five hundred yards away and marching toward the thin line. Hartmann could count and the lion’s share of the soldiers sent were right here, not up-timers with their rapid fire rifles. So he expected to fight. Hartmann took the shells from his belt pouch and loaded them into the shotgun; five of the big fat cartridges. He jacked the lever, then put in another. “Watch your front, wait for the command to fire.”
As the enemy reached four hundred yards, a single rifle cracked. One of the men approaching went over. Impossible! He looked up. The woman there fired again, then began screaming profanely. Oh, she was still firing, and every time she did, one of those men on horseback died. But she was upset about her shooting? The man in command walked over, and she paused to listen to something. Then she was back at what she seemed to do so well.
Hartmann stood, scanning in amazement. The soldiers had gone into a hedgehog, and the few arquebuses they had were blasting the nearby shrubs. Like he had been in the battle, they didn’t even understand what was killing them! The large vehicles, the APCs were advancing now. And behind the hedgehog the cavalry were riding in ready to fight. The enemy began throwing down their weapons. This battle hadn’t even lasted as long as the one Hartmann had seen with those weapons!
Then it started. Someone put his helmet atop his shotgun, stretching it into the air, and jerking it up and down as he shouted the same thing over and over. Hartmann found himself doing the same. “Joo-Li!”
Hartmann picked up the wheellock that lay by the one dressed in the fanciest clothes. His heart had been blown apart by that very first shot, and he looked toward the hill where the woman had sat. They could kill at such an impossible distance with a rifle?
“Coming?” The driver of the pickup that carried all of the captured weapons waved, and Hartmann climbed in. It was only moments before they were back with the German troops ready to head back to Jena.
“Where is Frau Julie?” he asked.
Hartmann waved the gun. “Her kill, her spoils.”
The man took it, aimed it, and then handed it back. “Compared to that rifle of hers, that is a toy. I would keep it if I were you.”
“I wanted to ask her if she would teach me to shoot.”
“Better yet, ask just about anyone else. That gun, got it from Bobby Hollering, didn’t you?”
“Ask him. He used to teach a course back before the Ring of Fire.”
October 9, 1631
Hartmann walked up to the house and knocked. Bobby opened the door. “Heard you guys were on the way back, Richard.”
“I came to return this,” Hartmann handed over the shotgun, “and to ask a favor of you.” Bobby worked the lever, made sure the gun was empty, then looked the question at him. “I ask you to teach me how to shoot one of your rifles. I can pay.”
“No problem. I can start tomorrow. But you have to pay for the ammunition like everyone else.”
“I can pay.”
With that done, he headed to the Thuringen Gardens. He was in the mood for a beer. He walked in and looked around for a table. The next moment he was hit by a small blonde missile. He put his arm around Marta and used the other to steady himself.
“You damn fool! What I was to do if you died?” She screamed at him, then buried her head against him. Hartmann patted her gently, then led her to a nearby table. Through it all, the woman hung on him like a limpet.
He ordered a beer, then sat consoling the woman until she finally stopped crying. “Marta, I am safe. Please, do not cry.”
“The first man who treated me like a person since I fled home.” she mumbled against his chest. “When I heard about the army marching I knew you would go and why. You would be a soldier, even though you hate it.” She fumbled in the pocket of her up-time lumberjack shirt. “I went to the church, got this for you, but could not find you, bastard.”
He took the necklace from her. On it was a saint, and he looked at her confused. She looked up. “If the man I love is going to be a soldier, he should carry a medallion of St Martin of Tours, the patron saint of soldiers.”
He opened the clasp, and put it on. “Let me finish my beer, then go to the library. I must find out what they know of Dudley Do-Right.”
October 11, 1631
The bullet punched through the hand-drawn picture of a man from the waist up, and Hartmann cursed. “Low again!”
“Chill, Richard. You are doing pretty well for someone who learned with an arquebus!”
“But I am not even close to Julie Sims.” Hartmann took the magazine from the Ruger 10/22 and began reloading.
“Boy, none of us are in her league. But you don’t have to be Olympic material to shoot.”
“Bobby! Is that guy Hartmann here?” Cassandra Haymond shouted.
Bobby looked toward his wife. “Sure he is. Why?”
“The German Heinrich, the one they made a captain. He wanted to talk to Hartmann.”
Hartmann took off the ear protectors, walking over. “Thank you, Frau Hollering.”
“None of that, Richard. Call me Cassie.” She pointed at the phone as her son Robert began crying.
A few moments later, he was back.
“What did he want?”
“I was asked to come down tomorrow to talk with their army. They want me to become a teacher again.” Hartmann started to aim, but didn’t fire.
“These bullets. You call them twenty-twos. How many of them do you up-timers have?”
Bobby shrugged. “I have about four thousand rounds in my stock. In the town? Maybe thirty, forty thousand. Why?”
“We learned with matchlocks. But these rifles of yours need a gentler hand, and if these are abundant, it makes sense to use them.” The gun fired. “May I buy a thousand of your twenty-two bullets?”
Bobby snorted. “If you are doing this for the army, you just requisition them from Paul Santee.”
Santee looked at the form he had been handed, then at Hartmann. “What are you going to do with this?” He tapped it.
“I am being assigned as one of the new recruit training sergeants,” Hartmann replied. “I know how we used to train, but with these bullets, we can use them and learn how to shoot correctly.”
“Makes sense. How many men are you training?”
“I am not yet sure. I was told between forty and fifty.”
Santee stood, going into the arsenal that for the moment still filled Mrs. Tippett’s front room. “If you only have that many, I will issue you five hundred rounds. That’s ten rounds each. If you get more, let me know.”
The most recent recruits for the New United States Army straggled in. A lot of them were still hungover. They stood milling about, looking confused until there was a sharp whistle. Hartmann walked out, looking the men over. Since they didn’t have uniforms made yet and there weren’t enough of the camouflaged clothes to equip every one, he was dressed as they were. However, his clothes were freshly cleaned—unlike most of the men facing him. “Good day. I am Sergeant Hartmann, what the up-timers call a drill sergeant. For my sins, I am in charge of your training. Now form ranks. Those of you who were soldiers before know what that means. Show your fellows how it is done.”
They formed a ragged series of ranks. “The up-timers have their way of doing things, and from what I have seen, they make sense. One thing they do is have straight rows, not this farmer trying to plow a field without removing the rocks first you have made. Get in straight rows. Move!” They reformed. “They also have commands that make sense, and you will learn them. The first is attention.” He demonstrated each stance as he told them. “When I shout attention, you will stand, feet together, hands by your trouser seams, looking straight ahead until you are told to stand at parade rest. You will on that command, move your left foot ten inches from your right clasp your hands behind your back, and keep your eyes to the front. If you are not sure about left or right, do not worry, you will learn or wish to God you had. If given the command at ease, you are now allowed to look around. Attention!
“I will not call you soldiers. You might think you were, but you are not by their definition,” Hartmann walked toward the right-hand end of the line. “Look to your front! I am not an actor on a stage to be followed with your eyes! I am your sergeant, and until told to stand at ease, your eyes will look straight forward!”
He paced along, looking into every face as he did. “You are here to learn how to be real soldiers. How to fight, and yes, perhaps die for the people you defend. We do not fight for glory, money, or loot any more. If that is your reason to be here, you are in the wrong army, and the wrong place!”
When he reached the end of the line, he turned. “Parade, rest!” They tried, but Hartmann merely shook his head. “Raise your hand if you were a soldier at Jena.” Almost all of them raised their hands. “Then you should know this. When you were told to charge pikes or muskets you moved your left foot forward. Those of you who were will help the new ones learn. If you do not, I will teach you how to help your comrades. Attention! Now, those of you who are new have my permission to look down and watch those to either side. Everyone else, look to your front. Parade, rest!
“Better. Now, for a moment, we are going to talk as men. So, at ease!” the men’s eyes were on him. Hartmann filled his pipe, lit it, and watched them. “I have been a soldier since my fourteenth year. In my time I have held every rank a common soldier can. So I have been where you are now, and where you were at Jena. This is not something hard. Give me an hour and I can teach what you have learned in the last few minutes to any group of children on the street.
“But from here it will be harder. The people we now fight for have rules, and some of them are about cleanliness. The up-timers know that when you are dirty, your wounds can become bad from what they call infection. So they demand you be clean. You will learn to keep your body and clothes clean. You will learn to take care of your equipment, and when it comes time, how to shoot correctly. My job is to teach, yours is to learn. I can talk as we are now as you learn, or I can scream at you. The faster you learn, the sooner I stop shouting.”
“He’s good.” Frank Jackson commented.
“He is that.” Tom Simpson replied. “He was as cool as they come at Jena. Patient, kept his men in hand. They tell me he took upon himself the training of the boys old enough to join the line. Has for years. We could use someone to keep the training going as more people sign up. Maybe you should talk to Mike about giving him a commission.”
“I’d rather not”
Tom looked aside at the older man as Jackson continued.
“He obeys orders, leads well, but doesn’t really like officers. Too many bad ones, according to Heinrich. In fact, Heinrich thought Hartmann would react badly when he heard we promoted him. But Hartmann just nodded, said, ‘not a problem for me’ and they were back as friends again—just with the reserve you would expect from a sergeant talking to an officer added.” Frank looked at where Hartmann was face to face with one of the recruits, screaming. “Can you picture him sitting on a horse lording it over the men he trained?”
After two weeks, the recruits marched to the gun range near Bobby Hollering’s home. Hartmann stopped them and walked to the front. “The up-timers say none of us can shoot, and there is a reason for that.” He stepped to the side and hefted his caliver. “This is what we learned with.” He filled the pan, then lit the slow match. He held it across his body in what he had already taught them was port arms, and pulled the trigger. The serpentine slid down, and when the match hit the pan, there was a flash of smoke. He was the only one who didn’t flinch. “With that a hand span in front of your face, most of us who fired them usually closed our eyes. The weapons we will be carrying do not do that. So if I see anyone closing their eyes before firing, I will kick your ass and will do so every time I see it until you learn.”
He hefted the Winchester, and turned to face the series of targets thirty yards away. “With these weapons, you have to aim and squeeze the trigger.” He aimed, then fired. The center target shuddered. “I have been learning for a month now, and I am only starting to be good with their weapons. Is there any one of you who thinks he can do as well?” The question had been rhetorical, but Hans Greif, a young man raised his hand. “Come forward.” The man walked forward, and Hartmann jacked the lever action before handing it to him.
Greif took a moment to look at the weapon, then threw it to his shoulder, leaning into it, and fired. The same target shuddered. Hartmann looked for a long moment. The boy’s shot had been closer to the center of the target than his had been. “Their weapons will also fire much faster. Greif, there are three more rounds. Without losing your aim, as fast as you can.” The young man didn’t hesitate. Three more bullets thundered down the range in less than five seconds. Hartmann looked at the young man. “Jäger?”
“My entire family, sergeant.”
“One thing you will learn is what they call policing your brass.” Hartmann bent and held up one of the shells. “These can be reloaded, so when you are done firing, you will pick them up for reuse. Greif, police this up, then walk toward the target and pick up the plastic wads too.” As the young man did so, Hartmann picked up another weapon and the men chuckled. “You will learn with these. I was not able to get enough for everyone to shoot at the same time, and obviously not all the same design. These are used by the up-timers in training their children how to shoot and in hunting rabbits or other small game. But shooting is the same whether you are using a shotgun or a twenty-two. So first ten to the front. Chosen man Greif will instruct you since he has proven proficient. These cases will also be policed. You each have ten rounds, I expect you to hit the target before you have fired five, and to hit the red five-inch circle at least once before you expend them all.”
“Today you learn with the real thing.” Hartmann looked at the men holding their shotguns. “This is now your weapon. You will learn to clean and oil it. Each of you has been given a box of shells. How many have sixteen gauge? All right, you seven, exchange places so you are gathered on one end of the ranks.”
“Always with the questions, Gruber? All right, for those who must ask questions every time I talk.” Hartmann walked over to where Gruber stood near the end of the formation. “You will all carry your own ammunition, but problems occur. Now, move over there.” Hartmann moved the man to the center of the formation. “So you have a man to either side, and three behind you.” He tapped the man to Gruber’s left on the forehead. “Poor Dieter here has just been killed. Lay down like a good corpse, Dieter.” The man knelt and lay on his stomach.
“The battle is hot and heavy, and Gruber fires off all of his shells. What does he do?” The man looked down at the ‘corpse.’ “Good plan. Now Dieter, hand me one of your shells.” He handed it off to Gruber. “Load it.”
The man tried to load it in the feed gate, but it was too large. “It will not fit!”
“Perhaps a bit of pork fat would help.” Hartmann suggested. The men chuckled. “You have a 16 gauge; Dieter has a 12 gauge. The term means how much weight of shot or slug, and like a lot of things, his is larger than yours.” They roared with laughter at that. “But it could be worse. Dieter, why are you just lying there? Back on your feet.” The man stood.
Hartmann now tapped Gruber’s head. “Bang, you are dead; hand Dieter one of your shells. Do not chamber it, Dieter.” The sergeant walked to the side where a double-barreled shotgun sat. He broke it open, and took the 16-gauge shell, dropping it into the bore. “Now look, Gruber. The shell fits the bore; it is caught by the rim which will not slide further. But it will not fire, meaning poor Dieter here has to get it out of the barrel before he can load. I am told we will all have the larger shotguns before we go into battle, but I was told as an arquebusier that we would all have the same caliber weapons when I first picked one up lo those many years ago.” He took a dowel, shoving the shell back out, and handed it back to Gruber. “Any other stupid questions? Back in position.
“Now, load three shells, but do not use the pump slide yet. The way you use these is like the small rifles you were learning with, except these kick much harder. Pull it into your shoulder hard, use the bead at the end of the barrel to aim. Your target should be in the chest of the target about here.” He touched himself below the heart. “So, chamber one round. That means move the pump, Gruber. Take your aim, give fire!”
Hartmann strode down the hill toward the town. He was considering what he was going to buy for dinner, but his eyes locked on the figure that was cutting across ahead of him. “Marta!” She looked up, clutching her shawl tightly to her. “Why do you have no coat?”
She looked away. “I needed to pay my rent first. I will buy one next week.”
“Nonsense.” Hartmann caught her arm, and led her toward the Value Market. She protested, but was soon swathed in a quilted plastic coat that came almost to her knees. Hartmann paid, nodded, and left her alone.
“Sergeant Hartmann!” He turned, smiling as Marta came toward him.
“Afternoon.” He nodded.
“I brought this for you.” She held up a large metal pan. “You bought me the coat, I felt it only right that I make you dinner.”
He opened the pan, sniffing appreciatively. “Enough for two I trust?”
“Yes.” She linked arms with him. “And I brought a fresh loaf to go with it.” She motioned. “Lead on, Sergeant.”
It became a habit. Three times a week she brought food by, either prepared or fresh. For the first time in years he found enjoyment in something as simple as a meal. At the Christmas party they held at the High School, he learned the provenance of mistletoe and led her over beneath it for a kiss. She gave him a present, a paperback copy of the collected poems of Rudyard Kipling.
Hartmann came in, saluting Heinrich. “Sergeant Hartmann reporting as ordered.”
“Stop that, Lehrer.” Heinrich returned the salute. “Sit.” As soon as Hartmann had done so, his officer leaned forward. “Your first class is in the field now. How is the second doing?”
Hartmann shrugged. “They are coming along. Not what I would call soldiers yet, unless you want to use the old way of judging.”
“Can they fight?”
“Open formation or behind fortifications?”
“We are taking the reserve units down to Suhl. MacKay’s Scots say a tercio is marching north from the Alte Veste, Captain Simpson is going to be my second in command, and we will probably have time to set up some hasty fortifications.”
“With those, they should be steady enough.”
“Then you will be in charge of your trainees from both classes. Round them up. We leave in the morning.”
Yes, sir. Best make sure we have enough shovels and axes. The more you sweat, the less you bleed.”
Hartmann walked into the Gardens, looking around. “Marta!”
“Richard!” She ran over and hugged him. When she stepped back, she saw his face and her smile faded. “You are going to war again.”
“Yes.” He reached into a pouch and handed her a small package. “It is not much, but this is for you.”
She took it, and unfolded the cloth. It was an up-time plastic rattail comb and a brush. “Oh, Richard.”
“We’re leaving in the morning. When I get back, we can talk more.”
Richard cursed as someone knocked on his door. He had gotten the men into bed so they would sleep after frantically making sure everything was loaded. He stalked over to it, threw it open, then froze. Marta was standing there wearing the heavy winter coat he had bought for her the previous winter. But in August? It must be like an oven in that coat!
She pushed past him, and he turned. Then his words froze as she dropped it. Except for the coat and a skirt, she was wearing nothing. Then she untied and dropped the skirt as well. She came over to him hesitantly, then wrapped her arms around his neck. “You are overdressed.”
“I want you to have a reason to come home.” His reply was cut off when she stood on tiptoe to kiss him.
“Sheisse,” Gruber whispered. All of the men with the exception of the sergeant were now armed with 12 gauges. His hands kept clutching and releasing the shotgun he held as the enemy formed up a distance away. He had thought his time would be spent guarding one of the entries to the Ring of Fire or perhaps marching by in ranks. The youngster had found a lot of the women in the town were attracted to a soldier on duty; at least when they weren’t rampaging around like the armies did outside the New US. Now he faced the enemy for the first time, and the only thing that kept him from running was that he couldn’t get his knees to bend so he could stand. The pikeheads glistened in the sun, and he expected to feel one ripping him apart as he knelt here too frightened to move.
“Gruber.” His head jerked around at the soft call. The Sergeant was sitting with his back to the abattis they had built, smoking his pipe idly. “Come over here.” The man crawled along. It seemed he could move if someone told him to. The sergeant held out his hand. “Your shotgun.”
The gun was passed over, and Hartmann sighed. “You have the safety off again.” He turned the weapon, and jacked the pump several times, looking at the four shells laying there. “And you loaded the chamber without permission again.” Hartmann jacked it one more time to assure it was empty. “Pick those up and wipe them off. You do not want to load a filthy shell. It could jam.” Then he began to load the weapon again. “Do you know why I am doing this for you?” Gruber shook his head silently. “Because as nervous as you are acting, you could kill one of our own.” He handed the weapon back. “The young recruit is silly—’e thinks o’ suicide./’E’s lost ‘is gutter-devil; ‘e ‘asn’t got ‘is pride;/ But day by day they kicks ‘im, which ‘elps ‘im on a bit,/ Till ‘e finds ‘isself one mornin’ with a full an’ proper kit,” Hartmann quoted. “Now, put this shell in your pouch. Put on the safety, and do NOT play with the trigger. When I shout take your aim, you can rack the slide. But not until then. Now back in position.”
Gruber crawled back to his assigned position, and Hartmann turned, kneeling, then lifted his head. About a hundred yards. “All right, lads, wait for the order-” He stopped talking as he heard a weapon dry-firing. “Gruber, I want you to look to your left, and tell me who would have just died because you were stupid.”
“Meaning him and Bauer right beyond him. After the battle, I want you both to have a discussion with our good friend and make sure he remembers what a safety is for.” Hartmann looked toward where Tom Simpson and Heinrich stood. Both had their own shotguns, not like most officers he had dealt with in his time. Good people. Heinrich lifted the whistle. “All right, men. Just like I taught you. Face the wall, on the signal, bring on hell.” The whistle blew. “Take your aim, fire!”
His shotgun bucked as he swept it from right to left. His men were on the right flank, and they had an excellent shot into the side of the tercio. He reloaded. “Gruber, take the safety off NOW!” He jacked the lever, and began unloading his second magazine. The enemy were stumbling out there, his own 10 gauge slugs were going through two and sometimes three of them. Even the smaller 12gauges were doing as well.
He reloaded a third time. The enemy were starting to buckle, but were still trying to attack—no, they were beginning to flee. “Cease fire!” The men who were still loading slowed their pace, watching as the enemy came apart like a dandelion in a high wind. “Those of you that are out, dig more shells out of your packs. Remember, safeties on.”
He looked down the line, then set his shotgun down. Gruber was still mindlessly jacking the slide and dry firing. From the look of it, he had not even bothered to reload after the first three. Hartmann grabbed the gun, and the trigger finger stopped moving. The boy was sobbing in terror, eyes tightly closed. He motioned to the two he had assigned to talk to Gruber, and both nodded, turning back toward the enemy. Hartmann pulled the weapon from his grip, then held the boy as he shivered in reaction. “You are not going into battle again, boy. My word on it.”
It had all been deception, Suhl and Eisenach; all to get the Up-timers away from the real target.
It had been two days since the report had come in, Croat cavalry had struck not only the town itself but also at the school. There had been no mention of casualties beyond light or even which school. But even light casualties could include six children he had saved from death before. He was looking at what he had built in the last year, the children and Marta all dead while he was away.
His men watched him, and never made a complaint. Not even Gruber. It was like seeing your father worrying about his other children, and they knew he would move heaven and earth if he must to avenge even one of them.
He heard a horse come up beside him where his men worked on the wall. “Hartmann.” He ignored it. He could picture Lisle, Dieter, the others, all torn apart, Marta dead at his feet, lifting her shattered body, screaming his fury at God for yet again taking everything from him. “Richard!” He looked up into Heinrich’s face.
“Look at your men!”
He looked back. Their faces were gaunt with fatigue in the fading sunlight. They had stopped working, watching him. “Those slacking bastards-”
“That is quite enough.” Hartmann looked at Heinrich in shock. The officer reined in his mount. “You have driven them beyond reason. It is an hour after we should have stopped for the day. Pushing them and yourself to death will not change the outcome!”
Suddenly Hartmann could feel his own fatigue. He wiped his face. The thought of them dead was a flail driving him on. His men deserved better. “Head for the barn, men.” There were no cheers, but it was because they were too tired to care.
Heinrich reached back into his saddle bag, handing a bottle to his friend. “Get your men settled, fed, and let them get some sleep. That is to help you sleep.”
Hartmann pulled the cork, and flinched back at the raw alcohol smell. “Where did you get this?”
“From the worst tavern in Suhl. I told the man I sent to find the strongest drink this town has to offer. So you will listen and obey orders. You will settle your men in, then you will drink two mouthfuls of that. If you still cannot sleep drink two more, and keep adding to it until you do sleep or pass out. That is an order, Sergeant.” Heinrich saw his doubts surfacing. “Damn it, Richard, do not picture them in the ground until you see the graves!”
Hartmann nodded, then began to walk along after his men. The raw spirit ripped his throat on the first swallow. By the fifth he no longer cared.
Hartmann looked around, but there was no sign that a battle had even occurred. The driver pulled in at headquarters, and Hartmann climbed out, followed by Gruber. “Report inside.” The young man looked distressed, and Hartmann clapped him on the back. “Up-timers aren’t like we have been for years, Hans. They understand that war is not for everyone, and there is no shame in it. They will find some duties for you for the rest of your enlistment. Just be glad you found out when you did.”
He climbed back in the truck which dropped him at the armory. “I’m going to get some chow and fuel up. Be back to pick you up in two hours.” Hartmann nodded, climbing out and hefted the bundle from the back onto his shoulder before walking into the building.
Paul Santee looked up from his desk, then turned. “You brought a shotgun back?”
“Yes, Herr Santee. And a requisition for more ammunition.”
“Don’t call me Herr, Hartmann. I’m a sergeant like you are, and we both work for a living.” Santee took the weapon, opening and inspecting the cleanliness, then took it back to the rack. “The guy get killed?”
“Gruber has been sent home for noncombat duties. He does not have the stomach for war. There are no more shells for my Winchester until they are reloaded, so I am going to use his.” Hartmann said.
“Not everyone does.” Santee filled out the form, and passed it to Hartmann for his signature. “Where’s your ride?”
“He went for fuel and food. He will be back in two hours.”
“Then we have time for a burger and a brew.” Santee waved for him to follow, and led the way the short distance to the Garden.
Hartmann looked around, and his heart eased when he saw Marta. She looked up, then was running across the floor to hug him.
“I checked on the children after the attack, Richard. They are all safe.”
“When are you coming home?”
“We are still assigned to Suhl. But I wanted to do something.”
Santee snickered. “On that note, I will leave you to find a room.”
Marta blushed. Hartmann chuckled. “Not that, just yet.”
Heinrich walked out to welcome the truck returning from Grantville. “You are late!”
“Sorry, sir. I had something else I had to do before returning.” Hartmann said. “I got married.”
“You bastard!” Heinrich shook his hand. “That means you owe me a drink. Hell, you owe everyone a drink.”
Hartmann pulled a tarp off the barrel of beer in the back of the truck.
Early September, 1632
Hartmann walked along behind the line of men who had been in battle with him before. The less steady trainees had been assigned to the APCs to his right and left. “Right lads, you know the drill. I’ve beaten them into you often enough.”
He saluted Heinrich as the officer rode up. “How are they doing, Sergeant?” Hartmann looked down the line of them. A cannon ball bounced, to the side, and the men flinched down as it whickered past. “When first under fire an’ you’re wishful to duck,/ Don’t look nor take ‘eed at the man that is struck, / Be thankful you’re livin’, and trust to your luck / And march to your front like a soldier. / Front, front, front like a soldier . . .”
“That damn Kipling.” Heinrich snorted. “Just a few minutes.”
“Yes, Sir. Good luck.” Hartmann turned to the men again as Heinrich rode off. “Now listen up! When I say advance you will do exactly what I taught you! This is why you came. I should be home with my new wife, but they just had to give us a battle as a wedding present! So as a present to my wife, you are going to get me home!”
“Jawohl, Lehrer!” They roared.
The bugle and drums sounded. There was the stutter of the machine gun, a cavalry charge coming apart under fire. The APCs came to roaring life, and with a blast of air horns they moved down toward the weakened section of the line. He drew his sword and blew the whistle at the next command. “At them!”