The Boat

Grantville, Sunday 6 April, 1634

George Watson stubbed out the cigarette he'd just finished and reached for his glass of beer. He sipped his drink while he gazed through the window at the shed where he'd kept his speedboat. He still missed his beauty, his Outlaw.

When he finished his beer George put the glass down and hauled himself out of his chair. He grabbed a coat and headed outside. Even before he arrived at the shed door he was breathing heavily. George was worried. He shouldn't be out of breath after such a short walk, not at only fifty-two.

****

"Well? What's wrong with me, Doc?" George asked.

"I don't have the X-rays that would give me a certain diagnosis, but knowing your work history, I think it's fair to say your shortness of breath is an early warning of coal workers' pneumoconiosis," Doctor John Thompson Sims said.

"Black lung? But there's no cure for that."

"It's not that bad, George, not yet. However, you should stop smoking and you really need to stop working near coal dust."

"Stop working near coal dust? But mining's all I know. What am I going to do for a living?"

"Why don't I make an appointment for you with Kathryn Riddle to talk about your options?"

George wanted a cigarette. He needed a cigarette. Already his fingers were fidgeting uncontrollably—although part of that might be reaction to Dr. Sims' diagnosis. Not that it'd been totally unexpected. He'd certainly seen enough black lung in his time to recognize the symptoms. But now he faced a bleak future with no social security, and maybe no job. "What about compensation, Doc?"

Dr. Sims shook his head. "I'm sorry, George. You don't meet the threshold conditions for compensation. At best the mine is required to find you alternative employment within the company, but it's too dangerous for you to work near coal dust. It'd be different if they were still using up-time mining techniques, but . . . "

"They aren't," George finished for Dr. Sims. He hauled himself to his feet. "No need for you to make that appointment, Doc. I can drop round to the employment office myself."

****

George shuffled out of the employment office. Even the walk from the bus stop to the office had him short of breath, and listening to what Kathryn had to say hadn't improved things. Either he risked making his condition worse by accepting a sideways move at the coal mine, in accordance with the existing union agreement for mining related medical conditions, or he left the mine and starved. Some choice. George lowered his head and started walking toward home.

Ten minutes later his feet stopped in front of a sidewalk sign—"Koudsi’s Legal Services (Since 1634)." He stared at it for maybe thirty seconds before he understood what his subconscious was trying to tell him. He needed to see his lawyer. He had the letter from Dr. Sims outlining his condition, then changed direction and set off to catch the railbus that would take him to the offices of Waffler, Wiesel, and Finck.

The Saalfeld offices of Waffler, Wiesel, and Finck

Martin Finck escorted George Watson to the front door and watched his client slowly walk down the street. He stared at the distant cliffs of the Ring of Fire.. They didn't give him any inspiration, so he closed the front door and walked into the reception area. There his eyes settled on the portrait of Johann Waffler, the late founding "partner," (mentally promoting him from his actual status as a legal clerk and small town notary). It was Johann's money—he considered avarice to be at most a minor venial sin—that had funded the beginnings of the partnership. Martin stared at the portrait, wondering what Johann would do. Then he smiled. Whenever possible Johann Waffler had looked for someone to sue. But who to sue? And with what justification? Martin headed for the office of his superior in the Saalfeld office. "Meinhard, do you have a moment?"

Meinhard Wiesel lounged back in his well-padded executive chair. "Sure, what can I help you with?"

"I've just had George Watson in again."

"The speedboat case? Has there been a development? Has he found the money to pay us to actively pursue the case?"

"He hasn't found the money, but there has been a development. He's recently been diagnosed with," he paused to read his notes, "non-acute 'coal workers' pneumoconiosis'—something better known as 'black lung disease.'"

Meinhard steepled his fingers and rested his chin on the fingertips. "Non-acute . . . what does that mean?"

"Herr Watson says it means his condition is severe enough that he can't work in the mines, but not bad enough to qualify for government compensation under up-time law."

"So what does he want us to do?"

"He hopes that down-time mining law might have something to offer."

Meinhard shook his head. "Doubtful. I've never heard of such a case."

"Neither have I."

The two lawyers stared at each other for a while. The only sound was the ticking of the clock over the fire.

Meinhard broke the silence. "Would Herr Watson's illness gain the sympathy of the up-timers?"

Sympathy and George Watson didn't usually go together, but a potentially fatal disease? One brought on by coal mining, in a coal mining town . . . "I do believe you have it. Surely this is just what we need to push the claim for compensation for the loss of Herr Watson's precious up-time speedboat," Martin said.

Meinhard stood and paced around his office. "Due to the change in Herr Watson's circumstances we should offer to handle his case on a 'contingency fee' basis." He smiled. "Surely one of our glorious mine workers, selflessly sacrificing his health for the betterment of mankind, deserves the support of the nation in his hour of need . . . "

"You're piling it on a bit thick, but I agree."

"It would be best if we could get the case to go to court. That would justify a higher percentage."

"They'll never allow it to go that far. Herr Watson's claim is just too strong. His boat was one of the few items actually nationalized, and General Jackson was heard to say that Herr Watson would be compensated. It's just a matter of how much."

Meinhard sat down and collected paper and a pen. "How much do you think it was worth?"

"Herr Watson paid about sixty thousand dollars for it up-time, but it was the only one of its kind down-time."

"You'll need to start by pricing how much it would cost to build a similar boat built today."

"They can't, Meinhard. For a start they don't have the engines that allow the Outlaw to travel so fast," Martin explained. "It is impossible for anybody to build anything like the Outlaw. The materials the boat was made out of don't exist, and most importantly, nobody can build engines of the required power and reliability."

"What if they could recover the original engines?" Meinhard asked.

"Even if they could build a boat exactly like Herr Watson's original Outlaw it wouldn't be a true artifact from the future, and it wouldn't command the same price," Martin said.

"How much is the up-timer premium worth?"

"I have no idea," Martin admitted.

"Then you had better do some research," Meinhard said. "And you might want to make contact with the owners of the other boats. If I recall correctly there were three others taken for military service."

 

State of Thuringia-Franconia Court System, Grantville

"Andrea, you got a minute?"

Andrea Constantinault, chief of staff of the State of Thuringia-Franconia Court System looked up from the papers she was reading. "Sure, Syl. What's bothering you?"

Sylvester Francisco, the Assistant Attorney General, stepped into the office and grabbed a chair as he approached her desk. "I've got a real doozy," he said. "George Watson is filing for compensation for the nationalization of his speedboat."

Andrea nodded. "The law does say anything taken by eminent domain must be compensated."

"Yeah, sure, especially as a number of people heard Frank Jackson insist that George'd be compensated. That's not the problem." He stopped and glared at the papers in his hand. "The problem is how much he's asking for."

"How much can it be?"

"George's lawyers are asking for six million."

"Six million!"

Sylvester grinned. "I thought that would get your attention. Yep, six million, plus interest backdated to the beginning of October when compensation should have been paid."

"But, but, that's outrageous," Andrea protested.

"That's what I thought." He dumped some papers on Andrea's desk. "But George's lawyer pointed out that the Outlaw was a one of a kind boat and could easily have sold for that kind of money."

Andrea picked randomly at the papers Sylvester had dropped on her desk. "Do you have any idea how much desperately needed indexing equipment we could buy for six million dollars?"

"Probably all you need. The lawyer did say George would settle for having his boat back."

"But it's been blown into a zillion pieces."

Sylvester shrugged. "As Herr Finck would say, that's not his client's problem."

"If Maurice presided over the case he'd have to decide compensation on 'fair value.'" Andrea sighed in resignation. "Are we sure six million is fair?"

"Fair value is kinda hard to determine, Andrea. But George's lawyers do have a point. How much would a replacement Outlaw cost?"

"I've got no idea. Maybe you'd better take it up with Maurice and Internal Affairs."

State of Thuringia-Franconia Department of Internal Affairs, Grantville

George Chehab, Secretary of the Interior, Department of Internal Affairs, his deputy, Jailyn Wyatt, and the State of Thuringia-Franconia court system's chief judge, Maurice Tito, listened as Sylvester outlined the problem. There was a dead silence as they stared at each other. Finally George turned to his deputy. "What do you think?"

Jailyn released a heavy sigh. "I guess if that's 'fair value', that's what we have to pay."

Maurice Tito, the person most likely to preside over the case, nodded his agreement. "That's the important thing. What is fair value? Does six million represent the fair market value of George's Outlaw when Frank Jackson 'nationalized' it?"

"You don't think we could get away with paying something more in line with what Watson paid for it originally?" George asked hopefully.

"No!" Sylvester answered. "If George Watson's lawyers feel that the settlement offer was demonstratively unfair they'll try and get it heard by a jury, and we have to avoid that."

"Why are you so sure they'd want to go before a jury, Syl? I'd have thought that with the level of compensation they're asking they'd want to leave determination of fair value in the hands of the presiding judge," Maurice said.

Sylvester gestured to the case folder. "In there is George Watson's latest medical. Dr. Sims has recently diagnosed him with non-acute 'coal workers' pneumoconiosis.'"

"Ouch! A couple of UMWA members on that jury and any chance of a reasonable 'fair value' goes out the window," George Chehab said.

"That's my opinion as well," Sylvester said. "Which means we either accept George's lawyers' valuation, or make our own."

"How do you suggest we go about determining a market value for the Outlaw?" Maurice asked Sylvester.

"How about getting someone to build a new one?" Jailyn suggested.

Maurice shook his head. "Even if someone could build a new one, its value won't take account of the premium a unique up-time artifact can command."

"Well, how do you price the premium?" Jailyn asked.

"I've no idea," Maurice answered.

"A lot of good you are," Jailyn muttered. "So where does that leave us?"

"I guess we do what we can to determine our own valuation," Maurice said.

"What about the other boats," Jailyn asked.

Three heads turned her way. "What other boats?" George asked.

"Harry Rousseau's, Louie Tillman's, and Jack Clements'," Jailyn answered. "They were also taken up to Wismar, weren't they?"

Sylvester nodded. "Yeah, they were, but I haven't heard of any of them claiming compensation."

"Well you wouldn't," George said. "Not only have their boats not been blown up, but both Jack and Louie were happy to let their boats be used while Harry and his family were left up-time."

"But Donna Rousseau still has family in Grantville," Maurice said. "We'll have to talk to them about selling Harry's boat to the navy or taking it back. And I guess we'd better do the same for Jack and Louie."

"Come on, Maurice. Neither Jack or Louie are the kind of guys who'll try to rip off the government," George protested.

Maurice shook his head. "George Watson isn't trying to rip off the government. He's standing by his legal rights to fair compensation. The fact that he might be dying of black lung and can't work anymore is justification enough for trying to get as much as he can. And if the Outlaw is worth six million, those other three boats won't be cheap. The navy would be advised to see about obtaining an indemnity or giving them back before anything happens to them."

The Saalfeld offices of Waffler, Wiesel, and Finck, May, 1634

George Watson settled into the client's chair and stared expectantly at Martin Finck. "Well?"

Martin shuffled papers on his desk. Selecting one he placed it carefully in front of him and looked across his desk at George. "After strenuous petitioning by Waffler, Wiesel, and Finck the State of Thuringia-Franconia has conceded that fair compensation is due."

"So when do I get some money?" George demanded.

Martin ignored the interruption and continued speaking. "Although they concede that compensation is owed, the State of Thuringia-Franconia wishes to make its own determination as to what fair value is for your lost vessel."

"And what am I supposed to live on while they make their determination?"

Martin held up his hands. "Herr Watson, this trifling delay is not unexpected. The government has a duty not only to pay fair value for your boat, but also to protect the public purse and ensure that fair value is all they pay. However, the state of Thuringia-Franconia is aware of your situation and doesn't wish to see you suffer financial hardship because of the delay. So they have made an offer of a stipend, backdated to the beginning of October last year, of five hundred dollars per week, payable until such time as they do settle." Martin removed his glasses and polished them. "The stipend is, of course, interest on the owed compensation by another name, but it represents a valuation of a mere six hundred thousand dollars. To let that stand would imply we accept that valuation, so I recommend that you allow me to negotiate the stipend."

"Sure, whatever you think is best. You're the lawyer."

"Then I'll get right on to filing our counter-offer and get back to you as soon as I can." Martin rose from his chair and escorted George out of the office.

Köppe's Boatyard, Schönebeck (14 miles south of Magdeburg ), May 1634

 

Ernst Christof Köppe looked up from the pile of drawings, photographs, and hull fragments. "Impossible."

"That is what everyone else has said," Hans Kierstead said. "However, they also said that if anybody can build it, it is Ernst Christof Köppe."

"They did?"

"Yes," Hans confirmed.

"Oh!" Ernst turned back to the drawings and pictures. A thirty-three foot boat capable of over seventy miles per hour that no one else could build. He could see the hull shape was fast, but . . . "What about the engines?" He gestured to the boats being built in his covered boatyard. "The engines I get for those 'Higgins' boats wouldn't be suitable."

"Attempts are currently underway to recover the original engines. For now we just need you to concentrate on the hull. Can you build it?"

"I can try," Ernst suggested.

"We'd like you to do more than just try."

Ernst sighed. He had another look at the material he'd been given. It would certainly be a change from the ten and twelve knot motor barges and lighters he'd been building. "Give me a week. If I can make useful drawings out of all of this I will build you your boat." He looked up. "If I can't make good enough drawings, then you must find someone else."

****

Three days later Ernst had some useful working drawings. Not anything suitable for making a full size Outlaw, but he could make a scale model. One to twelve should be easy to do. That'd give a model thirty-three inches long with a beam of eight and a half inches. The new material for the hull might present a problem. He was used to using sawn boards, or more recently, marine plywood, but the Outlaw, according to the brochures he'd been given, used something called 'glass reinforced plastic.'

"Claus," he called out for his senior journeyman. "Come here a moment."

Claus Wilhelm Delp put down the carpenter's plane he was using and hurried over to Ernst. "How can I help you, Master Köppe?"

"'Glass reinforced plastic.' Where have I heard of that?"

Claus stared blankly up at the roof of the workshop and worried his lower lip with his teeth for a couple of minutes. Suddenly he straightened and snapped his fingers. "Markgraf and Smith Aviation's new aircraft, they are using something they call fiberglass in the construction of its body. I'm sure it's the same thing."

As soon as Claus mentioned the aircraft manufacturers Ernst had remembered what he'd read. "I believe you're correct. I need you to visit Markgraf and Smith and find out all you can about constructing hulls using fiberglass." He pulled on Claus' arm. "Come along, we need to get you on your way as soon as possible."

"But, Master Köppe, I haven't finished . . . "

"Don't worry about it, Claus. I'll make sure your apprentices finish what you were doing. Right now it's more important that you learn how to make a hull out of fiberglass.

Köppe's Boatyard, June 1634

Claus Delp looked around the workshop. He could see Master Köppe had been busy while he'd been away. Along one side of the workshop was the wooden skeleton of a large boat. It could only be a wooden Outlaw. He walked over to the monstrous boat and peeked into the interior.

There were engines in the engine bay. He didn't think they were the right engines. They looked too much like the drawings of the new build engines he'd seen during his recent time at Markgraf and Smith Aviation.

"Isn't she a beauty?" Master Köppe asked from behind him.

Claus stood back and studied the lines of the boat. "Yes." He gestured to the engines. "Are they the proper engines?"

"No. They still haven't produced them. Those are a pair of new aero engines. The power will be well down on what the Outlaw had, but they're the best I could get."

Claus tried to remember the numbers he'd heard at Markgraf and Smith. He thought he remembered something like one hundred and twenty-five horse power per engine, which would mean Master Köppe's boat would have about a third of the power of the real Outlaw. If they worked. "Will they work on a boat?"

Master Köppe shrugged. "They'll work. I just don't know how well. My biggest concern will be how to prevent them overheating. They are air-cooled," he added to clarify his concern.

"With a third of the horse power the boat will be limited to what, thirty miles per hour?"

"The computer model suggests up to about forty-five miles per hour."

"Until the engines overheat," Claus finished.

"Until the engines overheat," Master Köppe agreed. "Never mind the wooden Outlaw. How do we go about building a fiberglass hull?"

Claus opened the satchel of notes he carried. "Well, first we need to . . . "

Köppe's Boatyard, first light, September 1634

Claus watched the boat slide gently into the water. It wasn't the fiberglass boat, but it was an Outlaw, all thirty-three feet of her. Fitting the radial engines into a space designed to hold two V8 engines had been a nightmare. The radial engines were half the length of the V8s, at nineteen inches, but their forty-four inch diameter had caused a lot of heartache as the team struggled to fit them into a cavity designed to hold a pair of modern V8s no more than thirty-two inches wide and twenty-two inches high. It'd taken a major redesign in the gearboxes, but they'd managed to shoehorn two of the new radial engines into the stern of the boat they were calling the Argo, after Jason of the Golden Fleece fame's ship."

Claus wondered how she'd perform. Sure she was made of wood instead of fiberglass, but the radial engines gave a weight saving of nearly eighteen hundred pounds. She had to be lighter than the three and a half ton Outlaw.

Master Köppe joined him on the dock. "I've briefed the chase boat crews. Let's get this trial underway."

Claus snorted. Chase boats indeed. The Higgins boats with their low power "hot bulb" engines were barely capable of ten knots all out. He waited for Master Köppe to take his seat before he stepped aboard the Argo and took his seat at the controls.

He checked the gearbox was in neutral, switched on the power, and hit the big green "start" button. There was a whirring of starter motors and the engines coughed into life. He engaged reverse and gently moved out of the sheltered dock of the boatyard, into the Elbe River.

****

Fifteen minutes of slow motoring later everything was still going well. Not that they'd expected otherwise. They'd tested the engines and the gearbox as best they could before installing it, but now for the crunch test. Claus opened the throttle a little and the boat surged forward, eager to go. Within minutes they had left the two chase boats in their wake.

"How is she responding?" Master Köppe yelled over the sound of the engines.

Claus swung the steering wheel a little to the left, and then to the right. The boat responded with barely a hint of lag. He lifted a hand off the wheel to signal all was okay.

"Are you ready to do a timed run?" Master Köppe yelled.

Claus scanned the river. Up ahead were the posts on either bank of the river that marked the start of their measured half-mile. He nodded his readiness and eased the throttle forward a little more.

****

When they passed the second marker Master Köppe stopped the stopclock. "Just under two minutes," he yelled. "What's that, fifteen miles per hour?"

Claus eased back the throttle. As the boat slowed he could talk without yelling. "Yes, and that wasn't even a third throttle. Shall we try to go faster on the way back?"

"Yes."

Claus took the boat about a quarter of a mile past the mark and turned round. He didn't expect to get up to full speed in that distance, but even this early in the day they couldn't hope to have this stretch of the river to themselves for much longer. When the boat was lined up on the channel markers he thrust the throttle forward. The noise from the twin radial engines increased as they sped up and the stern of the Argo dug in for a moment as the spinning propellers thrashed the water before she started to move. Soon she was accelerating away, leaving a huge roster tail of spray in her wake.

It took a tap on his shoulder from Master Köppe to tell Claus to slow down. Regretfully he eased the speed back to a crawl. He looked at the stopclock. Just over a minute, or an average speed of just under thirty miles per hour, and she'd been accelerating for most of the way. He smiled at Master Köppe. "That was . . . that was . . . " He couldn't continue. He was at a loss for words.

"Imagine what the fiberglass boat will be like."

Claus shook his head. He couldn't imagine what it would be like. The fiberglass hull should save several hundred pounds, and with the same amount of power . . . "We need someone more experienced to pilot her, and open water to test her properly."

"The American?" Master Köppe suggested.

"Herr Watson?" Claus asked.

"Yes. If he could pilot the Outlaw he should have little trouble with the Argo," Master Köppe said. "And we should see about taking her to Luebeck for testing in the Trave estuary."

"Will the Luebeck guild let us continue our work there?" Claus asked.

"It shouldn't be a problem." Master Köppe touched his nose a couple of times with his forefinger and smiled archly at Claus. "I know some people."

 

Travemünde, on the Baltic coast, Late September 1634

 

George Watson walked along the north bank of the River Trave near Travemünde. He stopped to stare at the lagoon where he understood the Köppe guy wanted to conduct speed tests of his new speedboat. It looked long enough, and the water calm enough, but was it deep enough? Certainly the river wasn't very deep, being as little as ten feet deep in the main channel along much of its length. Well, they had buoys out, so they must know how deep it is. He turned back and continued his walk. Somewhere around here was supposed to be Mr. Köppe's boatyard.

He froze when he saw the boat tied up along a short jetty. Surely not? From the jetty he stared down on the boat. It wasn't his Outlaw, but it certainly looked like one. Was this the boat he'd been employed to pilot? George certainly hoped so. Moments later he heard footsteps on the timber jetty and turned round.

"You are admiring the Argo?" Ernst Köppe asked.

"She's a pretty boat. Looks a lot like one I used to own."

"Ah, you must be Herr Watson. I have been waiting for you. Would you like to see my boatyard?"

George sent another glance towards the Argo. Actually he'd rather have a look aboard her, but there would be plenty of time later if she was the boat they wanted him to pilot. "Sure, lead the way."

****

George checked everything was secure in the cabin of the Argo before returning to the cockpit. After a week of testing on the lagoon they were finally ready to take her out into the Baltic for a sea run. The final top speed over the measured mile had been determined to be a mere thirty-six miles per hour, about half what his old Outlaw had been capable of, and his Outlaw had been a lot quieter. "Ernst," he called to the master boat builder, "if you're going to sell many of these boats you're going to have to do something about the engine noise."

On deck Ernst smiled. "I already have that in hand. I've been talking to the engine makers about making a water-cooled engine that will fit better."

"At least that'll get rid of the fan noise," George suggested.

"And maybe increase the power we can extract." Ernst looked past George. "Are you ready to take her to sea?"

"Yes. Let's get our life jackets on and get this show on the road."

Ernst pointed ashore. "We're waiting on Claus. He's getting the latest weather reports."

George swore at himself under his breath. How could he have forgotten the weather?

"Here he comes now," Ernst continued.

"The barometer is holding steady and the air force says we will have good weather and calm waters in Luebeck bay," Claus reported.

"Okay," George started the engines and left them idling. "Right, cast off fore and aft, and let's get out of here."

Claus tossed his bag aboard and headed to the bow to undo the forward mooring line while Ernst took care of the aft line. He held the Argo while Ernst stepped aboard. After one last check, Claus pushed the Argo away from the jetty and hopped aboard.

As they drifted clear of the jetty, George selected forward and eased the throttle forward to the first stop. At a mere six miles per hour they followed the River Trave the short distance into open water.

Once clear of the river, and any ships, George opened the throttle a little more. At the third stop—calibrated as being about twenty miles per hour on the calm waters of the lagoon—he glanced over at Ernst and Claus. Both of them were standing with their hands holding the grab rail looking over the windshield. The wind was whipping through their hair. George took a moment to run his hand over his thinning top. It wasn't fair that Ernst, who was surely older than he, should have such a full head of hair.

"Faster," Ernst yelled in his ear.

George smiled and did as he was told, easing the throttle forward another stop—twenty-five miles per hour.

Ten minutes later Ernst shouted, "Faster!" At thirty miles per hour the Argo was bouncing off the wave tops, the hull thumping into the water time after time. George didn't wait for instructions and throttled back to a more comfortable speed.

Ernst tapped George's arm and pointed to starboard. There were three sailing boats, and it looked like they were racing each other. Ernst made a circling gesture and pointed back at the yachts. George realized what Ernst wanted and smiled. He changed course for the yachts.

 

Aboard the yacht Pride of Neustadt

Jurgen von Neustadt saw the boat approaching. He'd heard of the up-timer boats, but he'd never actually seen one. His eyes followed it as it sped past the Spirit and looped around past Andreas Buchwald's Maria Anna and Hans Schulte's Pequod before passing the Spirit again. He waved at the three men on board the speeding boat as it sped past a second time. Then, with a spray of water and a mighty roar of its engines, it sped off.

Jurgen watched the boat disappear into the distance toward Luebeck. Against the head wind it would be hours before his yacht could get there. He glanced at the yachts of his friends before studying his own yacht. He'd felt so proud when he'd taken delivery just two months ago. The Spirit of Neustadt was the fastest yacht money could buy—and a speedboat had just run rings around her. Jurgen slammed a fist down on the gunwales—he had to have that boat.

SoTF Department of Internal Affairs, Grantville, November 1634

Sylvester Francisco settled himself at the conference table. Facing him were George Chehab, Jailyn Wyatt, and Judge Maurice Tito. He opened his case folder before looking up. "There has been some good news. The navy has located the engines of the Outlaw and Wilkie Andersen of Mechanical Support seems to think he can get them both running again."

"That's great news," Jailyn said. "What do George's lawyers have to say?"

Sylvester fidgeted with the papers under his hand. "They seem quite happy. In fact, I've got a new proposal from them. If Ernst Köppe can build his replacement Outlaw and if, using the recovered engines, it can achieve an average speed of at least seventy miles per hour on his measured mile near Travemünde, then they will settle for whatever they manage to sell the boat for by public auction, with a top up from the government of a percentage of the sale price to cover the up-timer premium."

"That seems reasonable," George interrupted.

"How big a percentage?" Maurice asked.

"I was coming to that," Sylvester said. "They want a premium of fifty percent of the sale price."

George reared back on his seat. "No way are we paying fifty percent. Heck, I thought it was the engines that made it so valuable."

Sylvester smiled. "I believe Waffler, Wiesel, and Finck will be prepared to negotiate."

"Not a penny over twenty-five percent, Syl. Not one penny," George insisted.

"How much is this going to cost the government," Jailyn asked.

"Well, we have to pay Herr Köppe for making the boat, and the navy has racked up expenses salvaging the Outlaw, although that can probably be offset by whatever they salvaged from the Anthonette, the Johannes Ingvardt and the Christiania . . . "

"The Christiana? Any chance of recovering anything of Hans Richter's Belle?" George asked.

"I don't know, but I'm sure the navy is looking. But back to Jailyn's question, building a new Outlaw with the original engines should cost less than a quarter of a million," Sylvester said.

"I say we try for twenty-five percent for the premium. The boat would have to sell for over twenty-two million before it costs more than settling would have," George suggested.

"I don't even see the boat going for eleven million, George," Sylvester said, thinking of the possible fifty percent premium.

"Okay then, tell them we agree in principle, but haggle over the percentage," George said.

Travemünde, March 1635

Meinhard Wiesel of the Saalfeld office of Waffler, Wiesel, and Finck couldn't conceal his good humor. The new contract with George Watson gave them ten percent of whatever they got for selling the boat and twenty percent of anything the State of Thuringia-Franconia paid out. The potential fee had inspired both him and Martin Finck to new heights. They'd identified the deepest pockets amongst men they believed would compete for the prestige of owning this particular piece of unique up-time magic and done everything they could to get them to the auction. It was an outrageous piece of theater to start the bidding at thirty million for the boat, and there was no chance anybody was going to pay anything like that, but it was good publicity and it did mean the countdown would take longer. The greater the tension between the bidders, the higher the final price was likely to be, and nothing beat time as a way of generating tension.

He surveyed the guild hall. The spectator stands were packed, and arranged in a semicircle around the Outlaw II were a dozen hand picked bidders sitting at small desks. On each desk was a single large button. Hitting any of the twelve buttons automatically stopped the spinning wheels that showed the changing bid price on the display set up behind the rostrum. In addition to showing the final bid value the display would also show whose button had been pressed. In the event of several people pushing their button at "the same time" it would show whoever pushed their button first. The electrical wizards in Grantville who built the system had assured Meinhard that it couldn't fail. As experienced judges of human nature Meinhard and Martin had assigned this assurance the value it deserved and tested the system for over an hour before they paid for it.

Meinhard struck his wooden auctioneer's hammer on the rostrum until the hall fell silent. "Gentlemen, we are gathered here today to sell the high powered speedboat set before you. This fine vessel is a product of respected master boat builder, Ernst Köppe, and uses up-time engines to propel it at speeds exceeding seventy miles per hour." Meinhard paused for breath. "You have all had an opportunity to inspect the vessel and pilot her on the lagoon. You all know what you are bidding for—nothing less than the fastest boat in the world. The only vessel approaching it for speed is Master Köppe's Argo, and we know that the Argo is only capable of a mere thirty-six miles per hour. Barely half the speed the Outlaw II can achieve.

"The Outlaw II is unique. One of a kind. And putting a price on something like that is difficult, which is why this auction is being run as a reverse auction. In front of each bidder is a button. On the display behind me you can see the current bid price as it slowly counts down. Bidders may bid by hitting their button at any time. The first bidder to bid will be the winner of the auction and will, in accordance with the contracts they have signed, be sold the Outlaw II at the currently displayed price." Meinhard looked at the seated approved bidders. They all signified that they were ready. Meinhard gestured for Martin to start the bidding.

****

George Watson nudged Ernst and pointed to the door before getting to his feet and leaving the guild hall. He didn't need to hang around. He knew that no matter what happened he was going to get a bundle of cash, and he knew just what he wanted to do with it.

He waited at the door for Ernst, and they walked along the bank of the River Trave. "Ernst, I have reason to believe that I might have a bundle of cash looking for a home. I'm wondering, how would you like a partner?"

"A master boat builder shouldn't have a partner," Ernst said.

"Of course not, and I'm not a trained boat builder, but I've got a few ideas about some boats we could build, and it looks like I'm going to have a heap of cash. Are you interested?"

"I am interested, but I make the decisions," Ernst said.

"Sure." George offered Ernst his hand and they shook on it.

SoTF Department of Internal Affairs, Grantville, April 1635

Sylvester Francisco slumped into the chair opposite the Secretary of the Interior and casually tossed him a folded sheet of heavy vellum. "They sold the Outlaw," he announced.

George Chehab picked up the paper without examining it. "How much?"

"Eight million, one hundred and fifteen thousand, two hundred and twenty-four dollars and thirty-two cents."

"Over eight million dollars?" George Chehab shook his head in disbelief. "That's more than two hundred thousand guilders. Gustav's Vasa, the one that sank on its maiden voyage a few years back, cost half that."

"I don't think Jurgen von Neustadt paid for it out of petty cash, George." Sylvester smiled. "I'm guessing he's gone seriously into debt to buy it."

George flicked the paper in his hands. "So what's this? George's lawyers asking for the twenty-five percent premium we owe?"

"And the rest," Sylvester said.

"Rest? What rest?" George stared at Sylvester. "We only owe the premium and whatever Köppe says we owe for building the boat. Don't we?"

"We also owe eighteen months interest for the delay in paying fair compensation. They claim that the 'fair value' of the Outlaw was obviously the price the Outlaw II sold for plus the twenty-five percent up-timer artifact premium. It works out to an additional seven hundred and eighty-five grand."

"So we need to dig up something like three million to finally settle," George muttered.

Sylvester gave George a wry smile. "Yeah, just a measly three million. I hope George is happy."

 

Travemünde

George Watson inhaled the clean fresh sea air coming in off the Baltic. He hadn't realized how dirty the air in Grantville had become with all the new industries cropping up. It felt good to be alive. He turned and walked toward his friend and new partner, Ernst Köppe's Travemünde boat yard. Ernst had recently sold his old yard in Schönebeck to the newly promoted Master Claus Wilhelm Delp, his old senior journeyman, and settled in Travemünde.

Inside the workshop George walked over to the empty shell that was his new boat. It'd be summer before she was ready for sea trials, but he didn't care. Soon enough he'd be at the helm of a boat others would envy. He even had a fitting name for his new beauty, the Fair Value.

 

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