Somewhere Else Entirely -109-

Robanar and Garia get letters from Keren at Brugan which provide information about the thoughts of some of the other Valley rulers. After lunch Milsy, Tarvan and Fulvin describe some of their discoveries and creations to Garia before Robanar reveals he has received a surprising proposal.

Somewhere Else Entirely

by Penny Lane

109 - The Mad Inventor's Club


Disclaimer: The original characters and plot of this story are the property of the author. No infringement of pre-existing copyright is intended. This story is copyright (c) 2011-2014 Penny Lane. All rights reserved.



10th day of Zuberak, Year 1174 since the Great Flood

The State House in Brugan, about the 2nd Bell of night


My Dearest Love,

Just a short note to let you know how we are progressing. Fortunately the roads have been clear and the crossing of the Sirrel was without trouble, though the wind across the river was keen.

We were well received by Uncle Visselen and Aunt Sindenna in Brikant. As the Yod invasion happened in their lands they feel the danger most keenly. The twins send you their best wishes and their thanks for sending them Joran and Benith, and seek to assure you that they do not take advantage of either. I was able to witness a brief demonstration which proves they will likely be as lethal as you at a similar age.

Marlin, on the other hand, is still as grumpy as ever but the invasion has focused his desire to strike back at the foe however he may. He trains daily with sword, bow and lance and grudgingly admits the new saddles to be superior to those he rode before. There may yet be hope for him.

Arriving in Brugan we were met by Duke Bardanar who showed alarm at the events in Brikant. It did not take long to ally him to our cause. I spent some time discussing his northern holdings with him and his council and I have sent father a letter giving our conclusions.

Lending me D'Kenik was a clever move, my love. Between us we were able to describe some of your excellent qualities and show the Duke some fruits of your knowledge. The papers describing the Garian numbers, paper itself, printing and other matters soon convinced him that you were the right choice for me and for Palarand. He has sworn to attend our wedding and seeks to learn more of the future you bring us.

Tomorrow we leave at dawn for Virgulend. I did not realize until we crossed the Sirrel again how much I missed you. The remembrance of traveling through our lands side by side with you has made me extremely desirous to return, only my sworn duty and the urgent nature of my task compels me forward. If all goes as well as our meeting today I shall have you back in my arms in three weeks or so.

Until we are able to hold each other again,

Keren

As Garia lowered the letter, Merizel clapped her hands together, her eyes shining with delight.

"Oh, Garia! That's beautiful! I wish Terry wrote me letters like that, so romantic!"

Garia, who had never imagined she might be at the wrong end of such a communication, was puzzled by Merizel's reaction. Keren wrote of his visit to Brikant, sure, and giving her updates about the family and their friends was expected, then on to Brugan and their reception by the first of the rulers who had to be won round. It seemed that the Yod invasion of Brikant had done that for them. Keren had detailed all that, so what was Merizel getting all starry-eyed over?

Perhaps I don't have a romantic bone in my body. Or, perhaps my body knows what it wants but I don't have the upbringing and expectations of these people.

Perhaps I'd better not upset Merry too much.

"He does write a good letter, doesn't he? It's a pity it's so short but he had other letters to write and it looks as if it's late in the evening. I bet the King's letter had a lot more in it."

"Oh, as you say, Garia. Do you want me to keep your letters from Keren separate, all wrapped up with a ribbon for you in a casket? You'll be sure to want to re-read them in the future."

Whatever. "Sure, Merry, why don't you do that for me. I don't think there will be many letters, though, they'll be back before we know it."

"I know, but that's not really the point, is it? These are personal letters from him to you. You'll want to treasure them."

Garia sighed. What chance did she have of fitting in here when she couldn't appreciate the local sentiments? Inventing gadgets and kicking butt was one thing, the social climate would be something else, especially when she became Queen.

"As you suggest, Merry. Now," she added, changing the subject, "are we prepared for lunch? What do you think we are going to be doing this afternoon? Jenet?"

"Milady, I believe you will spend the afternoon talking with Master Tarvan and Mistress Milsy. I do not think there will be any need to change our attire."

"That's right," Merizel confirmed. "Even if we go into the laboratory we'll only be at the end we cleaned. We should find our day gowns to be sufficient, although..."

Garia grinned. "Next time?"

"Mayhap, Garia. We may know more after this afternoon."

Lunch came and with it a Robanar who had a satisfied look on his face. Once they had all settled at table he addressed himself to Garia.

"Garia, you received a letter from Keren this morning?"

"Aye, Sire. Only a brief note but he seems to think everything is going the way we want it to."

"As you say. My own letter from him encloses a note from Duke Bardanar, did Keren mention him?"

"He did, Sire."

"There are matters in that note which may be of interest. Shall you join me this evening after dinner?"

"As you command, Sire."

Terys asked, "What are you doing this afternoon, dear?"

"We're finally going to find out what Milsy and Tarvan have been up to, ma'am."

"Oh. The wires and coils?"

"I expect so, ma'am."

"I don't understand a thing that they say to me, dear! They did tell me about the clocks and it all seems very clever, but I don't understand how a clock can work just by stretching wires to another clock."

Garia could tell that the Queen was uncharacteristically nervous. Most things in the lives of this society could have their function determined at a glance by almost anybody and that was about to change. Soon there would be engines and devices that only the mechanics and engineers who made and maintained them would completely understand. Modern Earth societies recognized that, and also knew that there was no shame in not knowing how something worked, but Terys was of a generation which had not yet adapted to the approaching realities.

"Um, Ma'am? Did you know how the Great Clock worked anyway?"

"Why no, dear! I always assumed the guildsmen would look after that sort of thing."

"And so they will continue to do so with all the new things they will be making, ma'am. All we have to do is know how to use something. It really doesn't matter what is inside so long as it works."

"As you say, dear. It just seems... I don't know..."

Garia smiled. "Magic? Witchcraft? That's always going to be the problem when you have something clever and you don't know what's going on inside. I can personally assure Your Majesty that everything we do is governed by the Laws of the Universe, the Laws the Maker himself set. There is a proper explanation for everything."

"As you say, dear. I just find it unsettling."

"I know and that's a problem I can safely leave to Your Majesties to solve."

Milsy, Tarvan and Senidet had taken lunch on one of the other tables, not being considered important enough to share the King's table, so they all assembled at the end and followed Milsy through the corridors to her quarters.

"I know it's not far but I don't want to walk across that courtyard today, even if it's not raining," she explained. "It's gotten slimy underfoot and I don't want any accidents."

She let them into what Garia still thought of as Morlan's quarters and showed them through into the sitting room. With everybody comfortably settled, Milsy started off the proceedings.

"First things first. You're Tandra, aren't you?"

"That is correct, Mistress."

"Then I'll give you the same warning I had to give to Molleena here. Everything that happens in these quarters, everything, must be kept private. You must not speak a word of what happens in here to anyone other than those presently in this room, understand?"

"As you command, Mistress."

"I'm not suggesting that you might be a spy or anything like that, only an accidental word at the wrong time or in the wrong place might cause trouble or embarrassment to ourselves or to others. You probably won't understand much of what we'll be doing, not at first, but just talking about what you may have seen or heard could be bad."

Tandra bobbed. "I understand, Mistress."

Milsy gave her an apologetic smile. "It's not that I think you would talk anyway, but Molleena did forget once or twice and it nearly caused huge embarrassment. That's why I'm asking you to be careful."

"As you say, Mistress."

Molleena looked red-faced and Garia wondered what she had blabbed about. Since she had heard nothing, presumably no real damage had been done.

Milsy clapped her hands together. "Very well. I'd better let you know what happened when I first arrived at the palace, Garia. Of course I was brought to your suite and Bursila and I spent some time finding out where everything was. We were both in the tub before the evening meal when we heard voices out in the bedroom. When we came out we found Tarvan and Fulvin examining the clothes and other things you had brought with you from Earth."

She smiled. "They were surprised to find me there, not having been told about the plan, so I had to explain all to them. I expressed interest, so to speak, in what they were looking at so they showed me, and from that moment I was hooked. I had heard your tale but of course I had seen nothing of yours from Earth and I was fascinated. Tarvan and Fulvin didn't help, since they thought I knew what I was looking at and explained everything to me.

Milsy wrinkled her nose. "Of course the King and Queen made me stay in your suite for a whole week to keep up the pretense it was you and I realized it would become very boring very quickly. We discovered that we would be found out because we couldn't read the list of meals to be taken in our chambers. The next day Tarvan came with a new microscope model to look at your portable clock and I asked him to teach me and Bursila to read and write and he agreed. It was hard work to begin with - all those letters! I never realized our tongue could be so complicated.

"At the end of the week he began to take me to the laboratory, again to keep up the pretense, where of course all your electrical experiments were laid out. I found some of the explanation very difficult and some of it very easy." She giggled. "He told me all about how an electric motor worked and I understood it perfectly, but I had no idea what a magnet was! Ah, I was so innocent in those days.

"So, to be brief, he had me winding coils to begin with, and then enameling the wire and even soldering parts together. Then there was the steam engine, which was fun, and then two guildsmen came to service the Great Clock and Tarvan thought it might be an idea if he took me to see it. We climbed up the tower and had a look round while the men were off oiling bearings and brushing dust off, that sort of thing. Then I noticed the pendulum swinging and had my great idea. We talked it through and tried to suggest it to the guildsmen and were thrown out of the tower for our pains! That was when Tarvan thought I ought to be introduced to Master Parrel.

"The Guildmaster could see that I was intelligent but not educated so he made some arrangements for me to formally learn to read and write." She nodded at Garia. "Including the Garian numbers, naturally. Once I did that he enrolled me in the Metalsmiths' Guild, Electrical Division, immediately. While that was happening Tarvan and I decided to see if we could get our clock idea to work. We asked the Clockmakers' Guild for two clocks to experiment on and played about for a week before we could reliably get the master/slave thing to work. Now, I have a question for you, Garia. The clocks don't seem to work if the wires between them are very long. Do you know why that might be?"

Garia screwed up her face in concentration.

"Now you're getting in areas I don't know very much about. I think the word you're looking for is resistance. Think about it this way. Electricity can go through most substances, yes? Some more easily than others."

"Aye, that's what you told Tarvan and the others."

"There's always some resistance to the electricity getting through. Things like wood, brick and stone have very high resistance so almost nothing gets through. Metals have very low resistance so a big current gets through."

Milsy nodded. "Aye, I understand that much."

"Well, even metals have some resistance and it depends on the length and diameter of the wire. Double the length of the wire, double the resistance. Double the area of the wire, halve the resistance."

Tarvan frowned at that. "Garia, are you sure? What do you mean by 'double the area'?"

"Umm. What I mean is... okay," she grinned, "time for the blackboard, I guess."

She stood and, going to the blackboard, drew a long thin cylinder on it.

"Ah!" Tarvan exclaimed. "You mean the cross-section." He nodded. "Like your original explanation which compared a wire to a water pipe. Aye, I understand. You essentially have a long thin column of metal and the overall shape determines the resistance, as you call it."

"Almost, Tarvan. The metal itself plays a part as well. Different alloys will make the resistance higher or lower."

"Higher or lower?" Tarvan echoed. "I can see why you might want lower resistance but higher?"

Garia shrugged. "Don't forget this property is true of all substances, not just those you want to send electricity through." Tarvan nodded. "But higher resistance can be a useful thing as well." She grinned. "Imagine a circuit where most of the wire is nice thick copper so the electricity flows freely. Now, add in a small section which has high resistance. What do you think would happen?"

"I don't know, Garia. I can't think of a reason why you would want to do such a thing, if it makes it harder for the electricity to pass through."

Milsy suggested, "Perhaps it's like what happens when you do electric welding, Tarvan. Doesn't the current have to pass through a small air gap then? That would be like a section of very high resistance wire. That makes it really hot, doesn't it? Hot enough to melt the metal."

Tarvan looked at Garia, then back to Milsy.

"Aye, I can see what you mean but I don't understand the connection."

"Okay," Garia said. "What we're talking about here is Ohm's Law."

She wrote the two formulae on the blackboard with explanations of the symbols.

"This one tells you how much current you're going to get along a circuit for any particular voltage," she explained, "and this one tells you how much power you're using. Of course, like any formula you can turn it round however you need. The point is that all circuits use up power one way or another and that's determined by the resistance." She wrote some more on the board. "So in our thought-circuit most of the power is used up in the high resistance part - and comes out as heat."

She grinned at her audience. "We make electric cookers this way." Her grin became broader. "And with certain precautions, you can make that section of wire so hot it will glow white enough to fill a room with light." A pause for effect. "We light whole cities this way."

Tarvan and Milsy looked at Garia with amazement. Senidet's expression, by contrast, was of interest.

"Milady... uh, Guildmistress, how would such a cooker work? Does this mean that there would be no need for fuel?"

"You'd still need the fuel, but it would be going into your electricity generators rather than your kitchen. Our cookers look something like this, usually." Garia sketched some items on the board. "There are three basic ways you can do this. This part is an oven, which is no more than a box with electric elements somewhere in the sides, top or bottom. Obviously you have to insulate the outside to keep the heat in and protect whoever is cooking. You can have hotplates or hobs which are just metal plates with an element inside or you can make a grill, which has the element exposed above it to brown the meat or whatever. You can have them made together or as separate items, it doesn't matter. They are all made of metal, of course. That's partly because of the weight but it makes it easier to clean as well. There's also a control to each part to regulate the heat and turn it off when you're finished."

"Wow," Milsy said. "That's going to make kitchens look completely different, isn't it?"

"Elements," Tarvan added. "That's what you call the parts that get hot."

"That's right," Garia confirmed. "We even figured out a way to put an element inside a kettle, so that you can boil up water for a drink anywhere there's an electric outlet. No need for any kind of cooker or fire at all. It's not difficult, but getting the kettle to switch itself off when it boils took a few years to figure out."

"You're now talking about portable cooking, is that right?"

"Up to a point. You still have to be connected to some kind of electricity supply. For proper camping we use gas or do it the old-fashioned way with wood."

"Gas?"

Garia waved a hand. "Another time, Tarvan."

Senidet said, "Guildmistress, you spoke of lighting cities."

"I did. If you get the bit of wire so hot it glows very brightly, it also burns up in the air right away. So what you have to do is put that bit of wire in a glass bottle like so," she drew a light bulb, "and then suck all the air out so the wire can't burn. It still gradually burns up somehow but it could be years before you need to replace one of these."

Tarvan frowned. "But how do you -" He waved a hand. "Details. You did it on Earth, we'll find out how to do it here."

"Back to my original question, Garia," Milsy said. "What you're saying is that the wire is so long the current is heating up the wire instead of operating the electric magnet."

Garia nodded. "Yes, exactly. You'll need thicker wire or a higher voltage. Look, you can think of your circuit this way."

She drew a simple circuit on the blackboard using the conventional zigzag lines to represent resistances, then explained how these affected the flow of electricity. During this explanation, she discovered that she actually understood what she was saying better than she had done before on Earth. There, of course, Gary's brief exposure to electrical circuits had been purely theoretical and very little had sunk in. Now, with a practical need to demonstrate, all became clear.

"That makes a lot of sense," Tarvan remarked. "We found - I should say Milsy found - another way round the problem, though."

"Aye!" Milsy agreed. "We already knew that a wire half the length would operate the coil, so we simply built it that way and the halfway coil closed another switch which then operated the coils in the clocks. In fact, we used one halfway coil to run three clocks at the back of the palace."

Garia nodded with understanding. "Oh, yeah. You used relays. That's good thinking. That's one way to make sure your signal gets from one end to the other." She paused, thinking about the control units in the milking parlor on Uncle Brad's farm. "You can use relays for all kinds of useful purposes, actually. Merry, add that to our lists, will you? I'll need to think about what else they might be used for."

Merizel rolled her eyes and made a note on her pad.

"Relays," Tarvan said. "I like that word." His expression changed. "We couldn't get the clocks to work, though. Oh, I don't mean that they didn't function but that making the dawn and dusk changes is extremely difficult. It seems that the way we describe time is too complicated to turn into machinery very easily, which is why even the palace only has the Great Clock to mark the progress of the bells."

Milsy took up the story. "Then, by chance, Master Gerdas came to the palace to meet with the King and we got talking. We explained what we had done and he told us of Earth's twenty-four hour system. Tarvan did some calculations -"

"- Thank the Maker for the Garian numbers!" he interjected.

Milsy put out her tongue at him for the interruption. "- and worked out how we could make a clock that divided the day into twenty-four equal parts, one that started at midnight so wasn't dependant on dawn or dusk."

"That seemed so easy, by comparison to our normal clocks, that I thought we should talk again with the clockmakers to find out what I had done wrong." He grimaced. "That was a long day, I tell you! But we took our master-slave clocks with us and demonstrated them and they suddenly became very interested. The clockmakers, Master Gerdas and ourselves went to see the King and showed him what we had discovered and he authorized us to make clocks which showed both times, to be distributed around the palace as an experiment."

"We learned a lot installing those slave clocks," Milsy said. "Including what happens when the wires touch when they are not supposed to." She looked at Garia. "How do you do this on Earth, Garia? Surely this must be a big problem?"

"We use insulation," Garia explained. "What I mean by that is that each wire is wrapped or coated in something that electricity can't go through." That brought her to a complete halt, derailed by the sudden realization of a missing piece of the jigsaw. She thought furiously about the problem.

Tarvan said, "Ah, you mean like the enamel or paint that we have been using for the coils?"

"Yes," Garia said absently, her attention still elsewhere. "That won't work for flexible cables, though, since the paint will crack and flake off."

How could I have forgotten that? Rubber! The first electrical cables were covered with rubber, long before plastics came along. And rubber is essential for hoses and waterproofing as well. Not to mention tires. Without rubber the modern world before plastics couldn't have existed.

Garia sighed. "Okay. There is an Earth substance which will do what you need but it is essential for a large number of other things as well. We need to find it or a good substitute from somewhere. It is called rubber and was originally obtained from the sap of certain trees. When it sets it remains flexible and is waterproof as well. You can extrude it and mold it to any shape before it sets. It will deteriorate eventually but that's a problem that can be solved in time. It is what you want for insulating your wires, especially things like the cables you are using for welding."

"Aye." Tarvan nodded. "There have been some spectacular accidents with the welding experiments. We have taken to winding strips of cloth around the welding cables to protect them and the... welders?"

"Welders, yes."

"Aye. So this rubber, then, can be molded around the wires, as we now coat them in paint or enamel?"

"That's right. A simple knife can bare the ends when you want to make connections."

Senidet said, "Guildmistress, you said rubber was waterproof. How then is this substance better than the waxes we already use? Cannot wax be used to coat the wires as we use it to coat our rainwear?"

"Umm, I'm not sure how flexible that wax is," Garia said, "but the big problem is that wax will melt when it gets warm. With rubber, once it hardens that's the way it stays. Electrical wires are almost guaranteed to get warm in use. Also, the wax we use on waterproofs wears away after a while, doesn't it? I think it's quite a soft material. That wouldn't be a good idea where electric parts are concerned, especially around motors and such."

"Ah. As you say, Guildmistress."

"You spoke of other uses," Milsy said.

"I did, I realized how important rubber is apart from any electrical uses. If you make tires for your wagon wheels out of rubber you get a much smoother ride. You can use it for suspensions as well. You can make hoses - flexible pipes, that is - out of rubber, or in combination with cloth or wire mesh for extra strength. That enables you to run air, water or any gas or liquid wherever you need since the hose is flexible and stays that way."

"We were talking about this very problem the other day," Tarvan said, "with Fulvin. He has..." He smiled. "Let him show you himself, I think. But he discovered the need for a flexible pipe which could conduct steam to a cylinder, to operate a stamping machine. Guildmaster Hurdin seeks a way to pipe compressed air to glassmaking molds to produce bottles. The gas obtained from making coke must needs be taken to wherever it is to be stored or used. Your words come at a critical moment, Guildmistress."

"So it would seem," Garia agreed. "Right, then. We need some kind of sap or plant extract which we can use for the purpose. Who is the best person to ask?"

Milsy and Tarvan looked at each other.

"Don't ask me," Milsy said. "I grew up in a kitchen, remember?"

"That may be so," Tarvan countered, "but there might be vegetables or other substances in a kitchen that may serve our purpose. I think we must needs ask of the Questors, Guildmistress. Unless you have any ideas?"

Garia shook her head. "Not me. I don't know much about any of the plant life here or what you might be able to get out of any of it. We mustn't restrict ourselves to the Questors, either. We might find our solution among the Healers, for example, in a kitchen, perhaps, or a tanners, or discover it's a common substance in use in a farmyard, only that nobody realized the significance of it."

"Guildmistress, your words are wise. We will speak of such matters to the Questors, firstly, but we will also seek among others who may presently use what we desire."

There was a knocking at the outer door, so Bursila went to investigate, returning with Fulvin.

"Ah! My Lady, well met! Greetings, Lady Merizel, Master Tarvan, Mistress Milsy. I was told that you were meeting in these quarters. Do I intrude? I can arrange to see the Guildmistress another day if today is not convenient."

"No, no!" Milsy said. "We were just speaking of you, as it happens. Guildmistress, do you approve?"

"Me? Why not?" Garia smiled. "I have been hearing hints of what you have been up to, Master Fulvin, perhaps you can tell me what you have been doing. Please, find yourself a seat. Jenet, perhaps it is time for some pel."

As Jenet and Bursila left for the kitchen Fulvin fumbled at the pouch at his waist. He pulled out an object which appeared to be two short strips of cloth stitched together with metal clips. He handed this to Garia before sitting down.

"It's... you've made a zipper! I'm amazed!"

"Milady... um, Guildmistress, I am delighted to return the compliment, after all the wonders that you have amazed us with. Aye, it is a zipper, although it is crude compared to that within your trousers. I spent many days attempting to understand how such a thing could be made. I have made many new tools and devices and I believe some of them will become of general use to the... engineers of the future."

Garia could tell that Fulvin was excited by what he had done. She noticed the expressions of amusement on the faces of Milsy and Tarvan and assumed they had been on the receiving end of his enthusiasm while she had been away.

"I sought to understand," Fulvin continued, "how such a thing as the zipper could have been made in the world from which you came, Guildmistress. It was apparent immediately that it could not have been made by hand. The sheer number of parts, together with your description that these had been produced in quantities so large I could scarcely believe them, meant that some kind of machine must have produced them. So, I began by attempting to make a sample of my own, to understand both the function and the way in which it must have been assembled.

"Guildmistress, I lost myself in the study of your zipper to such an extent that I neglected my duties to Their Majesties. I was chastised by Chamberlain Kendar and had to find guildsmen to cover the work I had not done. Eventually the Queen, interested in what I was attempting, permitted me to spend my time on this project while supervising others in what were my duties in the palace.

"You showed us how to use a vertical punch to make the little buckles used on your... underwear," he blushed, "and I made a similar one to punch the zipper teeth out of thin sheet brass. To produce such teeth in quantity meant that a wheel was required, and thus a belt to drive it from a steam engine. The teeth then had to be sorted and shaped so that they all came out of the hopper facing the same way... that was a difficult problem, I can tell you! Feeding the teeth onto a specially made ribbon and fixing them was simple by comparison. Then I looked at how the slide was made, observing that it too began as a shape punched out of a sheet of brass."

"That's true," Garia interrupted, "but I can tell you, for information, that slides can also be cast in one piece."

"Ah, I did not know that, but it seems a reasonable idea. To continue, I first had to design a punch to cut out the shape, then make successive dies that folded up the sides and then folded the ends over to make the finished item. I was left with a bench full of vertical press parts, wondering how this could possibly be the way that your world made these things. After all, if one first punched out a shape, then changed the die to do the next operation and so on until the slide was finished, it would be very time consuming. I could not believe that this was the way it was done."

His face lit up. "Then I had the idea which explains how your world can make so many things and so cheaply. Of course it was not one man who made each slide, changing his press parts for each operation. Instead, each man had but one press which did a single operation before he passed the part along to the next man in the chain. Master Parrel told me you mentioned a phrase to him a long time ago, the words 'Mass Production'. Is this right, Guildmistress? Is this what you do?"

"Master Fulvin, you are exactly right. That's just what we do, although you'll find in time that even the men can be taken out of the process eventually, or at least most of them. Our factories are full of production lines where whatever you're making moves along from man to man or, just as often, woman to woman. We make everything that way, even the self-propelled vehicles we use instead of wagons and carriages."

Fulvin's eyes were initially wide but he soon nodded. "Of course. Even such a device as you describe is but an assemblage of smaller parts, is it not so? I can see how this method can be applied to the creation of almost everything that we use."

"You have no idea, Master Fulvin. We even use it in the production of food. In fact -"

Garia was interrupted by the return of Jenet and Bursila carrying trays of pel and, from the palace kitchens, pastries. Conversation halted while everyone took refreshments and talked over what had been discussed, updating Fulvin in particular on Garia's ideas on wiring and resistance. When they had finished and the maids were clearing the tables Fulvin asked a question.

"Guildmistress, while you were away Mistress Rosilda and I have been examining your clothing and the other items you brought with you. It is apparent that the lines of stitching on your clothes can only have been made by some kind of machine. I wonder, could you describe such a machine for us?"

Garia thought, and immediately a mental picture came of the old treadle sewing machine her grandmother had owned. Gary hadn't been interested at all in needlework or sewing but the machine had fascinated him.

"Yes, of course I can, Master Fulvin. What I can tell you about it is -"

She stopped, struck by a sudden chain of thoughts. She had gone from a sewing machine to a knitting machine and then to consideration of the denim and the looms that made it, to looms that were controlled by crude 'cards' to make patterns...

"Um. I'm sorry, Master Fulvin, I can tell you something, probably enough for you to go away and have some fun inventing a local equivalent of a sewing machine, but there are some serious implications I've just thought about." She cast a significant glance at Merizel. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to disappoint you for now since I'll have to run these ideas past the King first."

Fulvin's face fell. "As you wish, Guildmistress. I know the burden you bear and I would not wish to be the cause of difficulty and disruption in the future."

Tarvan commented, "That sounds like a mechanical kind of machine, Guildmistress. With your permission, I do not think Milsy or I would have much need to learn the details, although of course we may find it interesting in the future."

Garia nodded. "You're probably right, Tarvan. Sewing machines, and all the other devices related to that subject, are probably of more interest to Master Parrel than yourselves. Of course, most of what we'll be talking about can be driven by electric motors so there will be some connection with your own investigations in the future."

"As you say, Guildmistress."

There was a brief silence then, as each thought about what had been said that afternoon. Garia had a thought.

"We've a little time before we have to go and change before the evening meal. Why don't we go and see what you've been doing in the laboratory? The last time I came here we only looked at the clocks."

Milsy rose. "Aye, why not? You can see if what we are doing is acceptable."

"Acceptable? Milsy, I don't want Anmar to become a copy of Earth. If what you have works, then that's good enough for me. Of course, when you have problems to solve a lot of the time you'll find the same answers we did, but otherwise I'll just be happy for you to go with your own ideas. All I want to do is tell you where we went wrong so you don't make the same mistakes we did."

Milsy inclined her head. "As you say, Guildmistress. If you'll all follow us."

They all followed Milsy and Tarvan out into the big laboratory at the end of the quarters. As they walked past the study Garia had a question.

"Have you made any progress in there?"

"No, Garia, as we said before we have left it completely alone."

Bursila said, "Mistress, that is not entirely true. You gave those sheets with the secret writing on to Master Pitchell."

"Ah, yes. Thank you for reminding me, Bursila. It seems that all those sheets, so far as anyone can tell, are notes between Questors, Garia. Some contain requests for private meetings and others give details of another's work. It seems most are innocent enough, given the paranoia of most Questors, but several are in an unknown hand and a code that the Scribes cannot understand."

"So, you think they may be communications of interest to the King? Spying, perhaps?"

Merizel said, "Garia, that isn't likely, is it? Master Morlan thought you were a spy, surely he would not have done that had he been one himself."

Garia shrugged. "He might have just been acting a part, Merry. Personally, I don't think he was smart enough to be a spy. He was too focused on his own interests to be bothered about anything else. I think he considered me an irritant who he wanted out of the way as soon as possible - that is, before he discovered I knew more than he did."

It was cold enough in the big room that their breath steamed as they spoke.

Milsy apologized, "I'm sorry, it is cold in here because the room is so big. Normally we have the furnace or the steam engine going and that keeps the room warm enough but we haven't lit either of them today. Here we are. What do you think of these, what did you call them? Relays."

Some kind of production line must have been arranged since Garia saw machined iron slugs mounted between wooden brackets on a wooden base, the wires being brought out to bright brass terminals. Most of the units were bare but one or two had wood covers which had been removed for access. There were motors, too, which were far more developed than the crude models she had demonstrated to the King and Dukes. Some of these appeared to have examples of ball bearings and the brushes and contacts looked almost like those of Earth.

She nodded with appreciation. "These look good, Milsy. Are these what you have around the palace?"

Milsy smiled. "Aye, Garia. We thought to provide protection against dust, and also from stray fingers."

"A good point." A large box to the side caught Garia's eye. "What's that?"

Tarvan replied, "That is something you described to us before you went north, Guildmistress. It is intended, I believe, to make things cool but we have not been able to make it work."

"Oh, the refrigerator? It should be simple enough."

Garia walked over to the box and inspected the zig-zag of copper tube on the back, then opened the door to find a similar tube inside. There was a hand-pump connected to the pipework but the device was so simple there seemed no reason why it shouldn't function.

"Okay, looks like we'll have to go over the principles again. Do you want to do that now?"

"Another time, Garia. It is too cold in here for such work today, I deem. Have you seen our steam engine? We have modified it with some of the new bearings and -"

The discussion moved to the improvements Milsy and Tarvan had made to Garia's original prototype steam engine, which of course Tarvan had been involved in constructing. There was now a proper turned pulley instead of a flywheel, turning the largest generator she had seen since coming to Anmar. This, like every other piece of electrical equipment, was firmly fixed to a craftsman-made wooden baseplate.

"Milady. Mistress. We must needs leave to prepare ourselves for the evening meal."

"Oh, thank you, Jenet." Garia replied, then turned back to Milsy. "So, what you're saying is that the palace needs a proper battery charging room with a steam engine in it, and a supply of coal and water."

"Aye, Garia. Although we do it now, it is not safe to be wheeling trolleys of batteries about the palace and the constant use of the steam engine distracts from our experiments. Bringing coal through the palace is also unwelcome."

"Okay, I'll discuss it with the King, who'll probably send me to Kendar. Anything else?"

Milsy grinned. "I'll give Lady Merizel a list. Come, Tarvan, we must go and change ourselves before eating. Garia? Thank you for coming, I know your time is all used up."

Garia rolled her eyes. "You noticed? We'll see you at table, then."

~o~O~o~

Robanar, Terys, Garia, Kendar and Merek were all seated in the King's parlor. Of the servants, only Jenet remained, the rest having been dismissed to their own devices for two bells.

"I wanted to make sure that you all knew what Keren described to me in his latest letter," the King began. "There were two enclosures, one in code, the other to me from Duke Bardanar himself."

He looked around at his listeners, making sure they understood the significance of what he was about to tell them.

"Keren himself says that he was well received in Brikant, as any might expect, and Visselen has already strengthened his defenses against any further attack. What he only mentions in his coded note is that Visselen accompanied him to Brugan, attired simply as another traveler and making use of Keren's retinue for escort. He joined the discussion with Duke Bardanar, who already seemed well disposed to our cause. However, it seems the Duke has greater ambitions than we suspected. He seeks a formal association with Palarand, perhaps eventually in the same manner as Brikant."

There was a stunned silence at that announcement. Nobody in the room could possibly have suspected that another duchy would want to legally join with Palarand, especially not now when all were threatened by an outside invader.

Wow! Palarand is already the 800-pound gorilla of the Valley, with the possible exception of Yod. Who would possibly want to make the imbalance even greater? Those upstream have to be feeling even more threatened, if this goes ahead.

Robanar echoed Garia's thoughts as he added, "While I am naturally gratified by the trust which the Duke's proposal implies I am concerned at the effect that such a union would have on our friends further away, especially while we are at war with another. Thus, while we may discuss this matter amongst ourselves we must not mention it to any other beyond this room. Have I your word?"

Everyone gave their assent and Robanar continued.

"Garia." She looked at the King with surprise. "In your descriptions of your own lands, that is, the lands of your birth, you speak to us of Kansas as a state but not a country, which seems to our ears a curious distinction. You also tell us that there are many such states, all gathered together in a greater country called the United States. Have I described it correctly?"

Garia gulped. "Yes, Sire, that's almost exactly what it is." A thought came, and with it another surprise. "You're thinking ahead, aren't you, Sire? Uniting Brugan with Palarand would just make us look even bigger and more threatening to everyone else, and that's only going to get worse once we start industrializing. I'm guessing you want to know about the American model, see if that might be a better way of doing things."

Robanar smiled warmly at Garia. "As you say, my dear. Shall you describe to us how this union of your lands is able to function? For my part, I find it difficult to visualize such an arrangement."

Garia's eyes narrowed in thought. The genesis and evolution of the United States had been a historical process dictated by the politics of Europe over many centuries. She wasn't sure that there were any parallels that applied here, especially as she had little knowledge of the local history. There were no colonies of one or more mother countries, there were no great empty central lands - that she knew of. Here there were a string of countries, states, which shared a language and many customs - she thought - but all had already been settled for many centuries. A better comparison might have been with Germany or Italy, but that wasn't what she had been asked.

"The history of the US - the United States - is complicated, Sire, and it has a bearing on why we do things the way we do. However, the situation in the Great Valley is nowhere like the same as America was, so I'm not sure how much of what can can tell you will be of use. The best thing for me to do is tell you how it works now and let you use that as a way to figure out how you'd like to consider something similar here."

"As you say, Garia."

"We have governments at two levels, then. Each state makes its own laws, just like the Valley states do. Most states are headed by a Governor who is usually elected by the people of that state. Since each state makes its own laws, they can choose how to elect a Governor and what he or she is called and how long they serve, that kind of thing." She shrugged. "There's no reason the Governor couldn't be a King or a Duke and be hereditary, I guess. The United States has a thing against nobles, for historical reasons, but that doesn't apply here.

"Under the Governor is usually a... group of elected representatives who actually do the day-to-day running of the state. These people are also elected the same way the Governor is, but not necessarily at the same time. Then below them you have officials who have permanent jobs who work out the details and actually do the work. Much like your Chamberlain does for you, Sire.

"Over all of the states is what we call a Federal government. This deals with major matters that concern all of the states, such as defense, finances and environment, things like roads and rivers and mining and so on. The federal government is divided into three branches, these are the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. All are theoretically independent of each other but in practice that doesn't always happen. The executive is headed by a President who is elected by all the people in all the states, though I think the way it is done in the US could be better than it is. He then appoints a small staff of people called Secretaries, but they are in effect his ministers who get to decide policies for the Departments they are in charge of. Under the Secretaries are the Departments themselves and they are full of officials who run things the same way they do in the states.

"The next branch is the Legislature and it is basically the place where all the laws get made. There are two houses, one called the Senate and the other the House of Representatives. In the Senate, each state gets two Senators who get elected every six years. The House of Representatives gets a person for every so many people in the whole country, so there are a lot more of those. Either house can propose laws or changes but both houses have to agree before anything becomes part of the law.

"The third branch is the Judiciary, that is the legal part of the government, the judges and lawyers. They get to try criminal cases and some civil disputes as well. They can make law as well, since they are the ones who have to interpret the laws Congress makes and fit it to individual cases. They can't make whole new laws by themselves, but they can clarify the laws that Congress makes."

"Congress?"

"Uh, that's the name we give to the Senate and the House of Representatives combined, Sire. Originally it was just one body which voted to set up the United States in the first place."

Robanar nodded. "I see. What you tell me is that there are two governments, in effect, one for each state and another for the whole union. The states seem to be ruled in much the same manner as our countries presently are, would you agree?"

"As much as I know about them, yes, Sire."

"This Federal government, then. I understand the division of responsibility but it seems complex to my mind. How many states did you say there were?"

"There are fifty states at the moment, Sire, and a few territories outside as well. Odd islands, mostly."

"And how much of... America... do these states cover? I recall, you once said that your country, the United States, went from one ocean to another."

Garia nodded. "That's true, Sire. Most of the states are contiguous, that is they all border one other. One exception is an island chain way out in the ocean and another is a huge chunk of land we bought off another country. The whole thing is maybe six to seven thousand marks wide and maybe five or six thousand top to bottom."

She had a thought and added, "Sire, though we stretch from sea to sea, we have land borders with other countries to the north and south. Each of those is also a union of states, though the arrangements are slightly different."

"As you say. So, there are fifty states, and the country stretches from, say, Vardenale to... the Kittrin empire? Would that be far enough for our discussion?"

"Yes, Sire, though, as I said, the circumstances are different. Thinking about it, we did start off much smaller. The original states who combined to form the Union numbered thirteen. The rest joined later or were carved out of empty land between the coasts."

Robanar raised an eyebrow. "And they decided on so complicated a federal government?"

"The thirteen were all colonies, Sire, of a country the other side of one of the oceans, one ruled by a King." Garia felt uncomfortable. "The mother country made stupid laws and raised extortionate taxes and the colonies decided they could better look after their own affairs by themselves. They decided on a new form of government without a King called a republic, and the laws were arranged in such a way that nobody could have all the power. That's why we have three branches to the Federal government, Sire."

"Ah, I see." He grunted. "That is why your people have no liking for nobility, then. They feared the damage a poor ruler might do." He grimaced. "The arrangement sounds sensible, though I would find a world without a King to be a strange one, even were I not a King myself. If it were a suitable way to rid myself of troublesome nobles, though..."

"Sire, I don't think it makes much difference, actually. We get idiots elected to Congress just as you get idiot nobles born to certain families. You still end up with idiots."

Robanar grinned at Garia. "Mayhap you are right, my dear. So, I understand that it may be possible to make a closer association with my neighbors, perhaps even a union of some kind, as we once did with Brikant and Kendeven, but we must choose carefully how the matter is arranged." He nodded. "We cannot progress this thought while we are yet at war but we may consider ideas and alternatives in the dark hours of winter. Garia, I may ask you to describe how some of the other countries you mentioned function, so that we may not overlook a way which might suit our situation."

"As you wish, Sire, although I don't know too much about anything outside our borders. We're so large that most people have only a rough idea of other countries."

"I will listen to all you can tell me, my dear. Kendar?"

"Sire."

"You will need to create a small section devoted to pursuing what we have spoken of this evening. To begin with, you should only require two or three, and I want them to swear oaths to me in person before they are told any of what we have discussed tonight."

"As you command, Sire."

"Garia, you may also find yourself speaking with the people Kendar selects."

"As you command, Sire."

"Sire?" Merek spoke for the first time. "I find this evening's discussion interesting, but how shall it affect my own responsibilities?"

"Ah, that is a separate matter, Merek. In my son's coded note he also talks about what we spoke of a few days ago - an assault upon the fortress which overlooks Forguland. It seems that it is possible to make one's way across the mountains from Northern Brugan to the fortress, though the route is difficult. Keren says, and I agree, that the armsmen of Palarand and Brugan are not familiar with campaigns across such lands especially in winter. We would only need a small force but we are not suited for such adventures, unless we send shepherds."

Garia had a vision then, of a huge red-bearded man, sword in hand, leaping from a longboat.

"Ah, Sire? I might have an answer to your problem, if you're willing to accept mercenaries. It might even solve some other problems, thinking about it."

"Mercenaries? I doubt the men of the Six Cities, or those of other distant lands who presently reside in Palarand, could provide the numbers or the experience we seek. What idea have you?"

Garia grinned. "Leave it with me, Sire. I have to speak to some people first."

The King nodded. "As always, you are full of surprises, my dear. Find your people, speak with them, inform myself or Captain Merek when you have news."

"I will, Sire."

~o~O~o~

"Whew! That was a packed day, Jenet."

"As you say, Milady. Should you consider a day of rest?"

"Probably. I thought it would all slow down once we came back to the palace but I couldn't be more wrong, could I? We've barely begun yet, and now the King has thrown some new surprises into the mix. A rest would be nice but there's this line of people with problems they think I can solve."

"Milady, I must point out that you do solve most of them. The Prince is a very fortunate young man to have made you his own."

"Thank you, Jenet." Garia sighed. "Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I wasn't quite so important, do you know what I mean?"

"I do, Milady. Now, climb you into bed and I shall tuck you in. It wouldn't do for Palarand's next Queen to catch a chill."

"As you command, Jenet." Garia was already far away, thinking of how she should approach Eriana, as she settled beneath the bedclothes.



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