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Other People's Money

By Gorg Huff



When Sarah Wendell had agreed to go out with David Bartley, it had seemed like a good idea at the time. She had totally forgotten that she was months away from her sixteenth birthday. The Wendell house rule was no dating till sixteen. Remembering that little detail hadn't been a problem when other boys asked her out, as several had in the last few months. David had his own version of the Delia effect. You sort of felt you were more grownup if you did what the adults wanted. Mostly David's thing worked in business matters, but this time the switch between working out how to finance the twin's scheme and his asking her out had come too quickly.

On the other hand...

David wasn't allowed to date till he was sixteen either, and he knew she wasn't. Knowing David, there was no way he had done it on purpose. It was kind of nice to know that she was as capable of making him forget that sort of thing as he was of making her forget them.

* * *

Similar thoughts occupied David's mind. In his anxiety over how Sarah would react, he had forgotten that it wasn't entirely up to her. Apparently she had, too. When you spent half your time running—well, helping run—what was rapidly turning into a multimillion dollar business, you tended to forget that you weren't old enough to date or set your own bedtime.

David had spent most weekends since the merger traveling to nearby towns to set up Higgins Sewing Machine Company franchises. It was amazing the number of villages that dotted this part of Germany. It had come as a surprise since the Ring of Fire that the seventeenth century was so well populated. So a great deal of his time these days was spent sitting down with merchants or master craftsmen two to three times his age, explaining to them how to deal with rent with an option to buy payment plans and other intricacies of adding a sewing machine outlet to their other businesses. Then there were the two times he had had to revoke a franchise agreement because the holder didn't realize that they meant it when they talked about a policy of honesty and fair dealing.

He wasn't exactly in charge of any of that. Truth to tell, he was sort of Karl Schmidt's tame up-timer, sort of physical proof of Karl's up-timer connection. Still, he was involved, and did have a say. He got away with it in spite of his age because he was one of the magical up-timers, and because he always had at least Johan with him and usually Adolph or Karl to provide an introduction. He had also gotten away with it because he worked really hard at forgetting that he was fifteen when he talked business.

The fact that he was wealthier than his whole family had been up-time and had what amounted to his own man-at-arms didn't help with the bedtime business either.

All of that cut no ice with Grandma. He was fifteen, he was not allowed to date, and his bedtime was ten o'clock on weekdays.

Well, he had put his foot in it. It was time to talk to Grandma.

* * *

Delia Higgins was trying to figure out how much she could rob Peter to pay Paul. That damn warehouse was threatening to become a bottomless pit. Delia was honest enough to admit that it wasn't the warehouse itself that was the problem; it was the research money that she had showered on Grantville High School. Alexandra Selluci ought to teach extortion.

No. Delia admitted to herself that she needed to learn frugality. Her agreement to build the warehouse, her remaining dolls, plus her property had provided her with a drawing account that had seemed limitless. She had wanted to use concrete in building the warehouse and as much in the way of up-time building techniques as possible. She had wanted more than that: she had wanted a work of art, the best combination of up-time and down-time construction techniques possible. So she had gone to Alex.

Alex had been trying to make bricks without straw in terms of helping to reorganize the chemistry department with half the teachers gone, more than half the students not speaking English, and budget constraints from hell. She had made it quite clear that she had no time for the next "hare-brained project of Old Lady Higgins, Grand Dame of the Sewing Circle."

Delia, her blood up, had promised to pay for the whole thing. That had shut Alex up. She realized that Delia meant it, and could actually do it. Alex had brought in Ambrose Salerno. The upshot of it all was that the Grantville High Tech Center got a brand new concrete research program, complete with structural engineering courses where the teachers were half a chapter ahead of the students, or sometimes half a chapter behind, and Delia had a great deal less money. She couldn't really regret it. The kids that had gone into concrete were phenomenal. They were about four to one down-timer to up-timer, about average for the high school. They wanted to build things. Great big things, dams, skyscrapers, and roads, and were willing to work at it.

Then there was all the housing that was being put up, driving up prices, and her two builders arguing over design and materials. Between it all, she had spent all her doll money and more before the dolls were sold. She had gotten the warehouse built, and if not exactly a work of art, it was functional, and very large. Unfortunately it was only about half full at the moment. It wasn't paying enough to handle what she owed.

David's deferential interruption was something of a relief. Wise Grandmother was a role she found much more comfortable than Hard-nosed Businesswoman.

His problem was a hoot. So much so that she had difficulty keeping from laughing. She managed because it was clearly so important to David. David had forgotten again that he was just a kid. Not a hard thing to do if you weren't looking at him. He looked like your typical fifteen year old in the middle of a growth spurt: all angles and elbows, dark brown hair, short in the up-time style, pale blue eyes that usually looked a lot older than they did just now.

* * *

Judy the Elder had been secretly pleased at Sarah's announcement. She herself had been a tall gawky wall flower in high school. Not dating till sixteen had not been a problem; getting a date for the prom had. It wasn't till college that she had bloomed.

Fletcher was neither pleased nor secret in his displeasure. His displeasure had several causes that he disclosed to his wife with great zeal. An unkind observer might even have said with satisfaction.

First, he had been hoping for a few more months of relative tranquillity before the horde of horny—and now mercenary—boys started making their runs at his daughter.

"Well, David isn't after her money," Judy the Elder pointed out.

Fletcher gave his wife a look that indicated more clearly than words that his mind was not relieved. Eliminating mercenary just left...

Well, what it left didn't bear thinking about.

Judy the Elder decided to let her idiot husband get through his rant, so they could discuss things rationally.

Second, David knew the rules and his ignoring them was personally disappointing. Fletcher had trusted David.

Judy still trusted David, and was quite sure that he had simply forgotten. It wasn't a teenage power play to show the grownups who was boss. For one thing, David generally worked fairly hard not to show who was boss. She held her peace. It wasn't easy, but she did it.

Third, especially in this latter day Dodge City that Grantville had become, family rules were one of the very necessary safeguards, not just to keep the kids out of trouble, but to keep them alive.

This was a potential crack in the wall. Their kids already had one unfair advantage in the generation conflict. Sarah already had a net worth greater than her parents and Judy the Younger with her Barbie Consortium was gaining. Wendell really couldn't pull out the argument "As long as you live under my roof." Sarah had the wherewithal to provide her own roof, and Judy probably could in a pinch.

Another good reason not to get angry when it wasn't called for, Judy thought, but she kept her peace and let the Bull Male protective father run down. Then they could actually discuss the matter.

As Judy the Elder calmed her husband by the simple expedient of letting him run down, Sarah was going from repentant to downright pissed. It wasn't like she was some silly Juliet sneaking off to get married, or commit suicide or whatever. She'd just forgotten that she wasn't allowed to date yet. She had told her parents and apologized. She had even been initially willing to call David and cancel, though she hadn't said so. Not anymore, however. Now it was a matter of principle. She paid the housekeeper out of her salary from HSMC, not that she begrudged that. Mom and Dad both worked for the newly formed Department of Economic Resources, which was important work, but didn't pay all that well. The addition of her income from HSMC elevated the family lifestyle from existing to comfortable. She wasn't a little kid. She had a job, and did her share.

Fletcher had actually calmed down a bit when who should call but David Bartley, the cad, the rake, the libertine himself!

Luckily David wasn't calling to entice the innocent Sarah to an illicit rendezvous in the woods, nor to run off to Badenburg and get married. He was calling to apologize, and to invite the whole family to the opening of The Importance of Being Earnest. That is, to have the date without breaking the rules.

Opinions on the proposal were mixed. Judy the Elder thought it an excellent solution, one setting a marvellous precedent for future first dates (an observation that caused Judy the Younger some concern). Fletcher, of course, saw it as barracks lawyering; a crack in the wall for all the boys out there that wanted to do, well, what he had wanted to do in his youth. Sarah really would have preferred a less conciliatory approach on David's part, but she couldn't help but admire the sneakiness.

It was a compromise that everyone could live with. Which left only the question: What to wear? The five women of the Wendell household—Judy the Elder, Sarah, Judy the Younger, Mrs. Straus the maid, and Greta the maid's daughter—went into emergency dress-up mode. Fletcher retreated to the home office muttering to himself.

* * *

In the English-German blend that the play was written in, a line would be stated in one language and then paraphrased in the other, to make sure that everyone got it. Sort of like the Shakespearean trick of using three versions of a line, one to the left, one to the right, and one to the front so everyone could hear it.

The playwright team that had written this version of The Importance of Being Earnest had used that trick to play with the audience. The play worked if you spoke English, it worked if you spoke German, but it worked better if you spoke both because there were subtle and sometimes not so subtle differences in what was said in each language. The effect was a two-language pun of some sort about every third line. That wasn't the only trick up the writer's sleeves. The lines were arranged so that if you spoke only English it seemed that the guys were being reasonably sane and the girls were total ditzes. But if you spoke only German the girls seemed fairly reasonable and the guys off the wall. If you spoke both languages, it added to the feeling that they were talking past each other. At one point, one of the ladies described herself in German as preferring the quiet life in her country estate of Ept to the social whirl of the big city. The English version of the line was "I'm still socially in Ept." It was all like that, a reasonable statement in one language followed by a groaner of a translation.

"So, David," Judy the Elder asked as they all walked outside during intermission, "how is Master Schroeder treating you?" Bruno Schroeder was the master tailor in charge of the clothing for Karl Schmidt and Ramona Higgins' upcoming wedding.

"I got him to give up the diapers."

"Diapers?" Fletcher was still a little miffed about the non-date date, and quite ready to hear about David in diapers.

"Yes, sir. Those really puffy short pants they wear. They look like diapers; worse, they look like full diapers."

"So what did you have to give up to lose the diapers?" Sarah asked with a grin. She knew that Master Schroeder was trying to convert up-timers to down-time fashions, even though he claimed to be looking for a compromise.

"Embroidery. Bruno has found a way to use a Higgins sewing machine to do embroidery. Basically he draws the pattern in chalk and then sews along the lines. Apparently the king of Sweden had all this gold thread embroidered onto his wedding outfit. Karl's and mine aren't going to be gold, but they might as well be considering how much dyed thread costs. Anyway, we're both going to have our outfits embroidered up the kazoo. Mine'll be bad enough, but on Karl's you mostly won't be able to see the cloth for all the embroidery: trees, flowers, coins, even sewing machines, in every color he can get from Mr. Stone's dye shops."

Fletcher laughed. "I must be sure to bring my digital camera."

David rolled his eyes. "If you don't, someone else will, probably the newspapers. Karl is making a big deal of the wedding. It's Badenburg politics."

Badenburg had joined the new little United States, but mostly it was politics as usual in the city council. The new elections were scheduled for some months in the future. Karl Schmidt was the foundry guild master in Badenburg, but that was because he had the only foundry in town. He wasn't, or hadn't been, one of the major players. Those were mostly the large property owners. With the merger between the foundry and the HSMC, he had rapidly become the biggest employer in Badenburg. A lot more money was flowing through his hands. More people looked to him. There were also more voters, since the property owner restriction had been dispensed with. And, just to add the icing to the cake, Karl's upcoming marriage to David's mother, Ramona, would give Karl a prestigious close personal tie to the up-timers from Grantville.

"He's planning a try for either a seat on the Badenburg council, or perhaps becoming the first Senator from Badenburg. The wedding is going to be a sort of promotional show to demonstrate how important he's become. He definitely wants the press there. I think he's caught on to what expanding the franchise means better than most of the others."

"Let me guess. He wants to show off his up-timer connections?"

"Yeah. He's hoping Jeff and Gretchen will attend. Especially Gretchen. She's become something of a saint to the refugees. In regard to status, up-timers are like the jokers in a deck of cards. Whatever status you need to make the set work, up-timers are it. Of course, not everyone buys that. Claus Junker has decided that we are all peasants and Jews.

"Claus Junker? Do I know that name?" Judy the Younger asked. She didn't like being left out of conversations.

"On the Badenburg council," Judy the Elder clarified. "This year he's effectively the bookkeeper for Badenburg. He also owns a fair bit of the rental property in the city." She had met Junker, and neither had enjoyed the experience.

"You've heard some of the things Karl sometimes says about Jews and thinks he's being fair and even-handed?" asked David. "Listen to this guy for five minutes and you'll think Karl is a paragon of openness. Junker also disapproves of children being involved in business, and of lower class people trying to act like they matter. Jeff marrying Gretchen has proven to him that we are all peasants, because no one of rank would be allowed to make such a marriage. Of course, that doesn't mean he won't do business with up-timers, if they are properly subservient in attitude. He's backing some guy that's trying to make microwave ovens."

"Can we do microwave ovens?" Judy the Elder asked.

"Not according to Brent and Trent," said David, "or our science teacher at school. Not for five years at least, probably more. Mr. Abrabanel could have found out for him. But ask a Jew? Not Claus Junker. I could have told him, but listen to a child on a matter of business, especially a peasant child? No way. Heck, if he had been willing to talk to anyone without looking down his nose, he could have gotten the four-one-one. The thing is, he's a Von something or other on his mother's side. So he figures that he must be smarter than anyone else."

"So why care?" asked Judy the Younger. "It sounds to me like he's getting what he deserves."

"Claus Junker can fall down a well for all I care," Fletcher said, "but what happens when a major player, or even a minor major player like him, gets publicly burned in an up-timer, down-timer deal? It could shut off the supply of investment money. We need investment capital."

"Not us so much, unless you count Mom's bathroom," David said.

"Grantville in general," Fletcher clarified. "Some of the projects that really need doing will take years to prove, much less make a profit. So how is your average down-timer to know what an investment is, what's a wild gamble, and what's an out-and-out con? When the microwave project breaks, it's going to scare the crap out of the down-time investors who have been throwing money at us."

"Not that anyone threw money at HSMC," said Sarah, still annoyed about the attitude the adult business community had shown toward HSMC in the early days.

"That's already changed and you know it. And it never was true in terms of down-timers," Judy the Elder corrected. She was getting just a little tired of Sarah's harping on the matter.

"I've been approached several times in the last few months, by merchants and masters who wanted to know what I thought of an investment opportunity. Actually, that's one of the things that is bothering me about this latest project of the twins."

David was interrupted by the end of intermission. They left the school parking lot where they had been chatting and returned to the theater to see the second half of the play. The play was quite good, and one more bit of proof that Grantville was already drawing talent like a magnet. The Grantville High School Theater seated seven hundred and fifty people in tiered seating so you could usually see over the head of the person in front of you. It was acoustically designed and had a sound system and lighting. It was one of the places where the expensive-to-make electric lights were used. The combination made it probably the best theater in Europe.

It showed plays five nights and two afternoons a week, and was usually packed. The three theater and music companies that took turns using it had a deal with the school that included teaching and financial benefits for the school. The final curtain fell with foundling Ernst restored and engaged to his cousin, and his older brother Ernst engaged to his ward, and everyone prepared to live happily ever after. The curtains then opened again for the cast to take a bow and accept the applause of the audience. As the final curtain fell the audience started to file out of the theater to wait for the buses.

* * *

While they were waiting in line for their bus Mrs. Straus plucked up her nerve and asked a question that had been bothering her ever since she had gotten her job as the Wendells' housekeeper. "Why do you not own stock in the sewing machine company, Herr Wendell? Sarah is your daughter, yes? What is hers is yours, yes?"

"Ah, no. Sarah is my daughter, but that doesn't mean that I own what she owns. Her mother and I do have certain veto power till she's eighteen, but her property—especially what we call real property; stocks, bonds, land, that sort of thing—is hers. And, come to think of it, that's probably a good thing. Not everyone in the government has been quite as careful as I'd like about potential conflicts of interest, and in the job that Judy and I have, it's especially important. We're out there trying to sell the improvements Grantville has to offer to the towns and villages around the Ring of Fire. Things like grain silos, plows and so on. If we owned an interest in the companies that made them, especially if we owned an interest in one of the companies and not in another, it would be a real conflict of interest."

"So what's your problem with Brent and Trent and their washing machines?" Judy the Elder wanted to know. "Do you think you'll have difficulty raising the money, David?"

"I can raise the money, all right. In fact, I'll probably have trouble avoiding it once news gets out. The investors are going to expect results though. They'll want a repeat of the sewing machines, with a quick and high payoff. It's not that I doubt the twins, but we have a reputation now. I think I've felt it more because I've spent so much time out there, where Grantville is still sort of a magical mystery. They look at HSMC—and, believe it or not, Mom's bathroom—and they want in. They don't care how much it costs. They want in. It's like owning a share in a Grantville business is a guarantee of a secure future."

"Ah," Judy the Elder nodded, "the light dawns. What happens when it blows up in Junker's face?"

"Right," David agreed. "The thing is, aside from his unwillingness to do business directly with Jews, Junker is considered one of the sharper men of business in Badenburg."

"They're still going to want in," said Sarah. "Never doubt it."

"You're probably right."

"The bus is here. Where do you want to eat?"

"I don't feel like the Gardens. How about pizza?"

* * *

Ramona Higgins was at that moment in her bathroom in Karl Schmidt's house. She was demonstrating to her betrothed husband one use of the massage table she had insisted on. Karl had stopped complaining about the cost some time before. At this point he was no longer complaining about much of anything. He was barely capable of moving. Now she looked around the room that had been added to Karl's three-story townhouse. It was eight feet wide and fifteen feet long. It had a hot tub in the end near the main house, a shower in the middle, and the massage table on the other end. The water tank was on the roof of the bathroom, against the wall of the main house. From there the water flowed down and then back up a little way to connect to the water heater attached to the new stove. The hot tub and the showers had faucets for hot and cold water. Of course, the stove was needed to heat the water, but the whole household could have a hot shower every night if no one hogged the hot water. The bathroom was really just one of the changes made with the "bathroom dividend," as David called it. There were the porta-potties, too. They had to be emptied by hand. But for that there was the dumbwaiter, so you didn't have to carry the loaded pots up and down stairs. It was all like that. The bathroom was the best they could do within the budget that Karl complained about so much. In Ramona's opinion it had all turned out to be pretty good. The house was crowded, and everything was used for several things, but there was a feel to it like things were going well. The neighbors were envious, and thought they were very modern. As much fuss as Karl made over the bills, he was sure quick to show off the results.

* * *

Adolph Schmidt didn't know whether to be pleased or really annoyed. His papa had been right. The latest offer for HSMC stock was for fifty-seven American dollars a share, except no one was selling. That was the least of it. They were making sewing machines faster than he had thought possible, and selling them faster than they could make them, at a higher profit than he had imagined.

His father's engagement to Ramona Higgins had made the family up-timer friends, people that they could sit down with over dinner or a beer and ask questions of. Through those friends and the knowledge they brought, the Schmidts had a small electroplating operation up and running. Jorgen was also producing fairly decent crucible steel. Steel was still an art, but it was an art backed by scientific knowledge, and the pours that didn't work could usually be redone.

The Schmidts had been hiring almost since the day of the merger, and, for the first couple of months, spending a lot more than they took in. Then things had taken off. They had made and sold sewing machines at a heroic rate. Rather than being supported by the foundry and smithy, the sewing machine plant was now supporting both and the research operations as well.

Papa's senior journeyman, Jorgen, had been told to research the making of crucible steel. Further, the journeyman had been told that the steel was his masterwork. Making the crucibles had turned out to be the hardest part. Now that Jorgen had found the clay and could make the pots, he could make what the up-timers called high carbon steel. Recently he had started experimenting with other additives for greater strength.

Jorgen's masterwork was judged by Master Marcantonio, the up-time master metal worker. Master Marcantonio had made most of the machines for the sewing machine factory and had a seat on the board of HSMC. When he was judged to have completed a successful pour of high carbon steel, Jorgen was declared a master steelmaker. Papa had set up a new company, forty percent owned by HSMC and thirty percent owned by Jorgen. The remaining thirty percent of the stock was held by the company to raise money and provide stock options for its employees. All of which meant that Jorgen could now get married.

Adolph hadn't been so lucky. He had been assigned electroplating, and he had succeeded sooner than Jorgen had with the crucible steel operation. Adolph's operation was turning out gold electroplated iron and now, steel flatware at relatively low cost. They always carefully explained that the items were only gold plated, but at the prices they charged, the customers didn't seem to care much. The gold electroplating kept the iron from rusting, and the product looked like solid gold. However, clever chemistry didn't make Adolph a master smith who was able to marry where and when he wanted.

* * *

Most of the major cliques in school were represented at the pizza parlor that night. There were several new groups since the Ring of Fire. In addition to the traditional jocks, nerds, and toughs, there was now JROTC or cadets, artists, and entrepreneurs. Like at any high school, there were those who fit into more than one group, with a different rank depending on the category and several subcategories.

David and Sarah were right at the top of the entrepreneurs, but from there they diverged. Sarah was also near the top of the brains, a subcategory of the nerds. David was somewhere near the bottom of the JROTC. Most of the boys, and more than a few of the girls, were ranked somewhere in the JROTC. There was also, as there usually is, a set of the elite: the most popular and successful from the other groups. Who was in that last grouping depended on who you asked.

There was cross-pollination between the groups, and different groups had different degrees of influence. JROTC was the largest and single most important group. Brains, though not universally popular, had gained some prestige since the Ring of Fire. Entrepreneurs were fairly high up, and for obvious reasons they rose to near the top as the students approached graduation. This had the effect of moving David up in the JROTC group and Sarah up in the brain group. It also placed them both just on the edge of the elites. So David and Sarah were greeted by many of their fellow students when they arrived. The fact that they were there with Sarah's family put a bit of a damper on things, but Fletcher and Judy weren't the only adult customers.

Judy the Younger was definitely in the elite at the middle school, and had friends in high school. It was through her that the nature of the evening was revealed. The technique of taking out the whole family was considered, and viewpoints were mixed. There was the added expense, of greater concern to most than to David Bartley. Between the tickets and the dinner, the evening had cost over two hundred dollars. There was also the inhibiting presence of the parents, right there for the whole evening.

On the whole, it was a fun evening, the conversation was lively, and David and Sarah had about as much time on their own as they knew what to do with, though not so much as they wanted.

* * *

Guffy Pomeroy was not looking his best when Officer Gottlieb found him. Electrocution, followed by a couple of days to ripen before anyone notices, is not conducive to a tidy appearance or pleasant aroma. There was a variety of electrical gear scattered around the body. Apparently he had been a bit careless in hooking something up, and ended up as the line of least resistance through the circuit. Or at least that's how Officer Gottlieb understood it. She was an old Grantville hand, and had been a cop for almost eight months. She had seen a lot of dead bodies in her life, mostly before becoming a cop. This, however, was her first electrocution. It wasn't pleasant, but not nearly the worst she had seen. Not being all that conversant with uncontrolled electricity, she carefully did not touch anything. She called in and waited outside for backup.

Guffy had been a well-known character in Grantville even before the Ring of Fire. He was a get-rich-quick schemer, not exactly a conman, but not exactly honest either. Guffy had a knack for getting people to back his schemes, usually to their detriment. He'd done two years for passing bad checks up-time. Down-time he had claimed he was going to be the re-inventor of the microwave oven and the microwave forge and so on. The rumor had it that his backer was a bigwig from Badenburg. Guffy had been a hard guy to dislike and was easy to trust, till you knew better.

Well, he was past trouble now.

* * *

By now the Grantville area had three papers. Two dailies, the Grantville Times and the Daily News, and a weekly business paper, that called itself The Street, and had pretensions of becoming the Wall Street Journal of the seventeenth century. The Times tried for a responsible tone with thoughtful articles and a restrained style. The News was big on flash. They also differed on several political issues. The Times was owned and edited by an up-timer, the News by a down-timer. The Times was very big on treating up-timers and down-timers just alike. The News felt no such restraint. While violently egalitarian in most ways, it expressed the view that up-timer knowledge was irreplaceable and every up-timer death was a terrible loss to the whole world. Daily News editorials called for up-timers to be restrained by law from wasting their unique knowledge and abilities in risky endeavors. The News had quite a bit of refugee support for this position, partly because high-risk high-pay jobs that up-timers weren't allowed to do would need to be done by down-timers. The two papers often got quite snippy with each other on the subject.

This was one of those times. Guffy Pomeroy had obviously been working on something important, which might well now be lost for all time. The Daily News rushed into print. The Times was slower and more cautious. It mentioned his death above the fold, but it wasn't the headline. The headline had to do with Badenburg politics.

What neither paper caught at first was the short-term economic consequences. Claus Junker had invested a medium fortune into the microwave project. It was mostly his own money, but he'd had some extra expenses lately and some of the city's money had found its way into the project as well. Claus was already nervous about the project after several unasked-for warnings. The only things that had kept it going this long were Guffy's gift of the gab and Junker's aversion to admitting he was wrong.

There was no backup plan, and no fallback position. Guffy had offered ironclad guarantees of success. But how do you sue a corpse?

* * *

In Badenburg first, then in other towns near the Ring of Fire, people were starting to wonder. "What happens if my up-timer dies?" That was the first blow. About the time that concern was getting back to the Ring of Fire, the Times published its response to the Daily News article. It contained a report of what Guffy was trying to do, why it wouldn't work, a guess about how much it had cost, and the conclusion: "While any death is tragic, in this case the most likely result is simply to prevent a continued waste of his investors' money." There was no Black Tuesday, but it was not a good time for the Grantville Stock Exchange.

* * *

In the midst of the slump came Karl and Ramona's wedding. The wedding was a circus. People came from all over, partly because Karl was becoming an important man, but also because it provided an excuse to travel to the area of the Ring of Fire and look at what was going on.

The day was bright and sunny. Badenburg's market square was festooned with banners and ribbons. Tables groaning with food were everywhere. More than a couple of fatted calves had met their fate. There were countless cabbages, squash fruits, flavored gelatins and all manner of good things to eat. There were jugglers, dancers, musicians, and assorted other entertainers. Three battery powered boom boxes playing tapes at full volume added to the ambience. Games and contests were available for children and adults.

Invitations had gone out to every employee and stockholder of the Higgins Sewing Machine Company, as well as to every prominent person in Grantville, Badenburg, and the surrounding towns. The wedding was a show of prominence. Not everyone who was invited came; but then, not everyone who came was actually invited. Children were playing everywhere; quiet conversations were shouted. The noise was deafening.

The wedding itself had happened that morning to control the size of the gathering. The wedding reception was costing more than Ramona's bathroom, and had involved Karl taking out a loan secured by some of his HSMC stock. Delia Higgins was not going to foot the bill for a city-size block party to launch Karl's political career. Just after the wedding itself, Karl had announced the endowment of The Badenburg School for Young Ladies. Endowing a school or other similar civic project was the traditional way of gaining the sort of social rank needed to sit on the council.

There were many conversations on all manner of subjects, but two main topics dominated the conversational landscape: the elections for Badenburg's senate seat, and the recent downturn in the Grantville stock market.

David, Sarah, Brent and Trent were getting a lot of questions about the stock market, and questions about specific companies. They were all, pretty much, the same questions:

What happens to the company if the up-time partner dies?  


Can this product really be made?   

All too often the answer to both questions was: "I don't know." Questions, delicately put, about the consequences of the kids being removed from the sewing machine company were met with a different answer. There were four of them, and even if all were gone HSMC would continue to produce sewing machines and continue to produce new models as needed. It was a bit humbling for the kids as they realized they really weren't needed at HSMC anymore. The designs for the Model Two were already set, while those for the Model Three were almost set. Their knowledge of manufacturing and the use of machines to make machines had already been imparted. They just weren't needed in HSMC anymore. It wasn't that they didn't have value; but other than their publicity value, they could be replaced by down-timers or an accounting firm.

Brent and Trent had not been shy about mentioning their argument over whether to build washing machines or small-scale electrical power plants. Brent and Trent, as time went by, had focused more and more on the mechanical aspects of the sewing machine project. Aside from a certain natural avarice, they had never been all that interested in the money. They liked the idea of being rich just fine; they just didn't care much about how that part of it worked. They cared about making things. For them the fun part was figuring out how to make the parts and fit them all together so that they would work. There was tremendous satisfaction for them in seeing the first prototype working and knowing that there was something new in the world because of them. Aside from the sewing machines, they had been closely involved in producing the collection of the gadgets that together were known as Ramona's Bathroom. In that project, they had met most of the top craftsmen in Badenburg. Now they wanted to make something new and useful again.

Brent and Trent knew how clothing got washed here and now, and found the process horrible. They knew that with small electrical generation units, combined with some basic circuitry and small electric motors, appliances could produce a tremendous leap in both comfort and productivity for every household that got one. They had worked up the plans for both projects. The washing machine could be done fairly quickly with what they knew now. They could be in production before the regular school session started. The electrical power plant and motor factory would take longer, and cost more. They wanted to get started on one or the other. David and Sarah had been dithering on which one they preferred. The twins decided to force the issue by going public. They buttonholed merchants and master craftsmen for their opinion on which to do. So far the opinions had been divided along simple lines. If the craftsman would be involved in a project, that was the project they favored.

Sarah had been approached more times than she could count about the availability of stock in whichever new company the twins ended up starting. Sarah knew why she was getting the questions, too. She had been standing just a few feet away when Karl had been approached on the subject.

"Talk to Sarah," he'd said. "I have the sewing machine company to run, plus the foundry, the crucible steel, and the electroplating. Besides, I've had to become concerned with politics recently. There are things that Badenburg needs, like a sewer system. I just don't have the time, which is a shame. I've learned enough about both proposed projects to be sure they can be done." Then, with what Sarah felt was a rather overdone tone of self-sacrifice: "Badenburg needs a senator who knows Badenburg and knows what the up-timers can and can't do."

Sarah left Karl and hunted up the twins. She found them cornering another merchant to ask his opinion. Together they went in search of David.

David had snuck off to the Boar's Head, one of Badenburg's inns, to avoid the questions for a few minutes. David was just sitting down and grabbing a bite to fortify himself before venturing once more into the breach, when Sarah showed up with Brent and Trent.

Things were quite a bit different since that first meeting in the woods shortly after the Ring of Fire, when they had started the process that ended in the creation of HSMC. For one thing, in Badenburg they were recognized for their involvement with the Sewing Machine Company. As a group, they were known as "The Sewing Circle," sometimes even to their faces. They were important people now. When David had entered the inn the owner had, rather more deferentially than David was actually comfortable with, offered him the best table in the place. Whatever the likes of Claus Junker thought, most people in Badenburg were convinced that up-timers were, if not actual nobility, at least as good as and probably better than the real thing. That was the basic attitude toward all the up-timers; but in Badenburg, that attitude was focused on the Sewing Circle.

When the rest of the Sewing Circle showed up at The Boar's Head, people noticed and it became a forgone conclusion that they were planning yet another way to make life in Badenburg better. The funny thing was, as uncomfortable as the kids were with that reputation, that was precisely what they ended up talking about.

"So, David, which do you think we should do first?" Trent asked.

"Have you been listening to what's going on out there at all?" David asked in response. "It's not a panic yet, but it could turn into one real easy."

"What?" Brent asked. "Everyone we talked to wanted to invest."

"Yeah, with us. And about half of those people were going to sell their stock in some start-up to invest in you guys because they know you'll get results."

"So? We're respected." Brent shrugged. "That's just the way it is in Badenburg. It's kinda nice for a change."

"Right. There're you guys, then there's Guffy Pomeroy, who bilked Claus Junker out of a medium fortune, and escaped to where the lawyers can't get at him. Right now, every investor in Badenburg is wondering whether he's invested with the right up-timer. Bunches of them are considering jumping ship, just in case. I've spent most of the afternoon trying to explain to them that you guys aren't really all that special, which ought to be obvious to anyone who's met you."

"Well, gee, David, if I'd known I wouldn't have wiped the drool off Brent's face before we talked to people." Trent spoke with some heat. "Then they would have known right off that we were Mo and Curly waiting around for the third stooge. That would be you, Sarah."

"That's not what I meant, and you know it. While you were getting 'How much can I invest' I was getting 'should I sell my stock in the mattress factory' or whatever else they were invested in. I've been running around saying things like 'Yes—to me, please. I figure I can get it at a bargain right now.' And Sarah, you need to have a little talk with your sister, by the way. Her Barbie Consortium seems to be taking advantage of the general nervousness and their presumed sweet innocence to sucker people into unloading stock on them at a fraction of what it's worth. I figure Judy the Barracuda is gonna be grounded for about two years when your dad finds out. It's not that she's ripping off the A-holes trying to take advantage of them. Guys that try to rip off little girls are despicable, and guys that try to rip of those particular little girls are stupid to boot. What bugs me is that they just might turn the nervousness into panic."

Sarah shook her head, caught between outrage and amusement. In the past year she had learned a lot about how her little sister and her gang operated. She wasn't worried about the Barbie Consortium taking a loss. They had acquired a down-time merchant, Helene Gundelfinger, to do the legal stuff for their little investment group, and she was very knowledgeable about the market and what companies were worth what. The Barbie Consortium provided information on what people were doing, and who was coming up with what. Sarah seriously doubted that there was anyone in Grantville better informed on what was going on in the Grantville business community than Judy and her gang. People should know better by now, but somehow everyone assumed the girls' questions were just innocent curiosity.

Then she caught up with what David had been saying. "Do you really think there could be a panic? Guffy Pomeroy wasn't even a stock company. That was just a private deal between him and Junker."

"I don't know. The Grantville Exchange has been dropping slowly for almost a week now. It's ready for a rebound or a crash. I figure it could go either way. I've spent most of the day being just a little too anxious to buy. Seriously, I could have gotten control of the mattress factory today without half trying."

"Maybe you should have. The only reason it's in trouble is because Mr. Jones is a horse's hind end." Sarah had received a couple of reports on Mr. Jones. He was one of the people who were convinced that only gold and silver could be real money. Both her parents and friends had reported on Jones and the reports weren't favorable.

"There are a lot of reasons why manufacturing beds is iffy right now," Trent pointed out.

"That's not the point. We need some way for down-timers to invest in Grantville safely without having to learn modern physics or electrical engineering."

"That sounds like a job for a mutual fund or an investment bank," mused Sarah. "But if we announce that we're setting up a mutual fund or investment bank it's going to do the same thing as the twin's whispered announcement of their new projects."

* * *

Within a few days it became apparent that David was worrying over nothing. The market had taken a bit of a shock, but wasn't really in any danger. David hadn't known that, and the twins certainly didn't. Sarah probably would have realized if she had given it a little thought. Certainly her parents knew, and so did her little sister.

The market was not in any real danger of crashing but waiters have big ears, and this wasn't the sort of place where they had zipped lips to go with them. True, the waitress' English wasn't that good, and she wasn't all that close—but she was very interested. From the waitress to her father, the owner of the tavern, the words "mutual fund" and "investment bank" were heard. From the tavern owner to a merchant he dealt with, the rumor was spread and proceeded to change. The first distortion said an investment bank would save the market, which was in more danger than people had thought. Then, as the rumor progressed, the story expanded until it encompassed both a mutual fund and an investment bank.

The story now circulated that the Sewing Circle, the people behind the Higgins Sewing Machine Company, had a plan to provide guaranteed safe investment opportunities. They had intended to announce their new project at the reception, but had put it off because of the scandal surrounding Guffy Pomeroy. Then it became...

By the time the Sewing Circle heard the words again, it was a done deal. Stories were circulating that important people, such as the mayor of Eisenach, who wasn't at the party, had been aware of the new project for weeks and—not to be outdone—the mayor of Badenburg was also a member of the inner circle.

Fletcher Wendell and Judy the Elder Wendell were asked several times that day about mutual funds and investment banks. Not once were they told the context. It was assumed they had to know what Sarah was planning. Besides, everyone knew how careful they were about even an appearance of a conflict of interest. The questions were general. Their explanation of the function of mutual funds and investment banks raised the level of excitement. Gretchen and Jeff Higgins were asked about it several times, and explained that they didn't know anything. They further explained that they hadn't known anything about the sewing machine company when it was formed either. Their stock had been a belated wedding present. Delia Higgins was asked about it, and she assured the questioners that she had heard nothing about it. She was not believed. The Partows were asked, and were believed. However, the Partows figured it was just the sort of thing Sarah was likely to come up with. They knew the boys wanted to make washing machines, and small-scale electrical generation systems. The adult Partows just assumed that was how the two projects were to be financed. They said that they would probably buy some stock in the mutual fund.

It shouldn't have happened that way, not from a group of kids talking. Not even from kids who had started a successful business. But Grantville was a magic place. In the course of a year, Grantville had improved the standard of living in Badenburg and the surrounding towns and villages rather dramatically. Lots of people were more than a bit intimidated by up-timers. They felt a little less intimidated by the kids of the Sewing Circle. The kids were perceived as being more approachable. Consequently, they had been constantly approached and questioned on varied matters financial and mechanical. They were well thought of.

Karl Schmidt heard about the mutual fund from Frantz Kunze, who was his closest friend on the Badenburg council, and without question, the richest man in Badenburg. Frantz was wondering why he hadn't heard about it from Karl. Karl knew the kids of the Sewing Circle, especially David, well enough to be fairly sure that something had been misinterpreted. Karl and Frantz adjourned to a private place to talk it over. It quickly became clear to Karl that the mutual fund wasn't a bad idea. Additionally, several important people had already gone on record claiming to be familiar with the project. If it didn't happen, and soon, there would be a number of embarrassed and resentful people whom Karl didn't want upset with him right now.

Wanting clear information, Karl sent someone to round up the kids. David, Brent, Trent and Sarah were happy to be rounded up. By the time Karl's messenger came looking for them, they were getting questions about mutual funds and investment banking that they weren't ready to answer. The questions weren't whether such companies would be started; but rather were inquiries as to when, and at what price, people could buy into the mutual fund and investment bank the Sewing Circle intended to start.

* * *

"So, David, what is this mutual fund everyone is talking about?" That was Karl's first question when the kids arrived.

"I wish I knew, sir. The first I heard of it was when people started asking me about it at the party."

"Remember, while we were in the tavern?" chipped in Trent. "Sarah said that what we needed was a mutual fund or an investment bank. Did you have something set up?"

"No!" she insisted. "I was just talking, trying to figure out safer ways for people to invest."

Frantz started to laugh. "It was the Boar's Head, wasn't it?"

When they nodded, he continued. "The Boar's Head gets most of its supplies from a moderately crafty merchant who gives them discounts for rumors. You children need to be a bit more careful where you do your chatting. Well, no harm done. Except some people who should know better are going to be really embarrassed, having claimed to be involved in a nonexistent company."

"That could be a real problem," Karl pointed out. "I need political support on a number of issues: the new craft of crucible steel, making my run for the senate, and the bathhouse guild is complaining about Ramona's bathroom. Don't ask me why."

"I can explain it to you," said Frantz. "Basically, they see the writing on the wall. They're worried."

"That doesn't change the fact that this is the sort of embarrassment I don't need right now. So have your, what's the phrase from the Sherlock Holmes stories, 'Miller's Street Irregulars'... whatever. Have the Sewing Circle here start the mutual fund. It's probably a good idea, anyway. From what Herr Wendell told me, a mutual fund would be a good solid investment for people who lack the time, inclination, or talent, to pick stocks for themselves."

"It would be at any other time, sir," said Sarah, "but right now with people so scared about what happened to Herr Junker... We're afraid that a safe investment would actually damage the market just now."

"I sometimes forget just how young they are, Karl," Frantz smiled. "No, Sarah, it doesn't work like that. First, because you're drastically overestimating your importance in the scheme of things. People are nervous right now, but not that nervous. It would take a dozen Guffy Pomeroys to really damage the Grantville market. Yes, people are envious of Karl's success, and he is careful to give you credit because it reflects well on him and his marriage to David's mother. But do you children really think Count Guenther is going to be scared off by Claus Junker getting clipped?"

He snorted a little laugh. "I knew the microwave was a bad idea months ago. So did Count Guenther and anyone else willing to study the matter. Well over half the money in the Grantville market is invested by people employed by the company that issued the stock. They know how their company is doing. Higgins Sewing Machine Corporation is a good company, but it's not the only one. I am sure that people have been approaching you about investing in your plans and no doubt some are asking about selling stock to you. Some people panic easily, and some of those, in their panic, are willing to take advantage of a child. My advice is do what Sarah's mercenary little sister is doing, and let them sell you their stock for a fraction of its worth. If you're short of cash, I'll back you."

Frantz Kunze had been caught between disgust and amusement as he watched Judy the Younger fleecing those who were willing to take advantage of the youth and naiveté of her little group of young girls. Personally, he was perfectly willing to deal sharply, but not against a child. He had been quite impressed by the older children's civic responsibility, no matter how misplaced it might be. Such an attitude should be rewarded. Besides, the mutual fund was certain to be a good investment. The children wouldn't insist on control as so many of their elders did. There was a tremendous amount of knowledge held by the up-timers, but no undue amount of business sense.

"No," he continued, "the addition of a mutual fund will not cause everyone to desert the market. Some, yes—but mostly it will be those who don't belong there in the first place. Besides, what you propose to do is simply to collect the money and invest in the various stocks that people are selling to buy shares in the fund. Your mutual fund will actually add confidence to the market, especially if some of your own money is in it."

"It wasn't a proposal, just a thought," Sarah protested. "We hadn't gotten anywhere near a proposal yet."

"I think we're about to, though. Aren't we, Herr Kunze?" David asked.

"Yes," Frantz replied firmly. "I think we had better have everything worked out before the mayor announces he has sold Badenburg to finance the project. It will save everyone embarrassment." He smiled a gentle kindly smile. "As a matter of fact, I have a young guest. He's a factor from Amsterdam, here to examine the rumored city from the future and give judgment on the truth of the rumors, and the possibility of investment. He's been here long enough to see that there is a great potential for both profit and folly. I think we should probably involve him. If the merchants of Amsterdam can be pulled away from their obsession with tulips, they may be a good source of capital."

"How would it work?" asked Trent. "I mean, I get the part about investing the money from lots of different investors in lots of different companies. But what do the people running the mutual fund get out of it?"

"I'm not sure," said Sarah. "A salary, maybe bonuses based on how well the fund performs, or a percentage of the fund? I think it would depend on how the fund was set up."

From there the discussion went into technical details of how such a business would be set up, and who would control what. Fletcher and Judy the Elder Wendell were sent for, as was the factor from Amsterdam, Kaspar Heesters. After much discussion it was determined that it would be an open fund. The fund managers would take up to three percent of the gross capital each year to pay any expenses incurred. There was some argument over the percentage, but Fletcher suggested that since it was unknown how large the fund would eventually be, and impractical to predict the percentage that might be needed with any precision, they should set it up so that the board could take less if it turned out that less was needed. He also suggested some sort of incentive to encourage the board to use no more money than they really did need. Bonus payments to the fund managers could only be made if the income of the fund was greater than the expenses.

To give it a stable base, the kids would put in some of their HSMC stock. Frantz would invest and arrange more from other sources in Badenburg and surrounding towns. Karl snuck out of the meeting to spend some time with his new bride. In passing he directed the mayor to the meeting. Informing him privately—where others could hear—that since the news had broken the principles were gathering in (mumble-mumble) and a servant would guide him.

* * *

Meanwhile, back at the rumor mill that the wedding party had turned into, the absence of the Sewing Circle, Karl, Frantz Kunze, and later, the Wendells and Kaspar Heesters had been noticed. The flurry of financial speculation went up a notch. When Karl collected the mayor and had him escorted somewhere, potential investors started lining up. Who got called first quickly became a matter of status. In minutes, everyone knew that news of the prospective business had broken too soon, and the principles were doing damage control. The inclusion of Frantz Kunze, the richest man in Badenburg, and Kaspar Heesters, a factor from Amsterdam, meant that the business was larger and better financed than expected.

The reception had been a big party, in fact the biggest party held in Badenburg since the start of the war. Financial and social movers and shakers from as far as eighty miles away were in attendance. As the financial feeding frenzy gathered steam, Karl and Ramona slipped quietly out the back. They were not heard from again for a week.

* * *

Fletcher and Judy Wendell left the meeting shortly after Karl did. They had been asked their opinion on the project, and in general they approved of it, although Fletcher was concerned about issues of possible insider trading. No sooner did they reach the street, than they were mobbed. While they had strong opinions on the matter of conflict of interest, they didn't feel the need to mention that the new mutual fund had been born only minutes earlier. They satisfied themselves with refusing to recommend, officially, this mutual fund. They explained that, because their daughter was involved, any recommendation on their part would be a conflict of interest. When asked if they would be investing in it, they acknowledged that they probably would, and that was another reason for them not to tout it. They spent the rest of the afternoon explaining mutual funds in general.

* * *

Judy the Younger was very annoyed, heartily embarrassed, and ecstatically pleased all at once. The annoyance was because somehow, her sister, who couldn't keep a secret if her life depended on it, had not let slip one word about a mutual fund or an investment bank. She was embarrassed because her friends in the Barbie Consortium expected her to have the low-down on the activities of the Sewing Circle. Heather and Susie had already made pointed comments about the lack of warning. She was pleased because the rumors of the mutual fund were causing some investors to sell their stock in good companies at ridiculously low prices, now that rumor said there would be a safe place to put their money. The Barbie Consortium was getting some amazing deals. Judy figured that the consortium would probably double its assets today. As far as the fund itself was concerned, she would tackle Sarah on that tonight.




Karl and Ramona had spent a lovely week in the best room in the best inn in Jena. Karl found that he liked the up-time custom of honeymoons. He was even considering making it an annual event, until they hit the city gate on their return.

It wasn't that disaster had struck in his absence. In a way it was the reverse. "Herr Schmidt, Herr Kunze needs to talk to you before you talk to anyone else. I was told to tell you that it is vitally important that you see him before you make any statements to anyone, on anything."

The nervousness of the guard bothered Karl. It seemed as though the guy was afraid Karl would have him hanged if he gave offense.

When they arrived at Frantz's home, Ramona was whisked away to talk to the ladies while Karl was led to the study, only to be met with: "You picked a fine time to wander off." But Frantz was smiling when he said it. "We've been working all week getting the fund organized. Have you seen a movie called 'Other People's Money'? The Wendells have a copy of it. I've spent the week trying to convince the parties involved that it's the perfect name for the fund."

"I still say it sounds like we're putting up a sign saying 'we'll rip you off'," said Sarah. "I think we should call it 'A Rumor of Wealth.' That's how it started after all."

"This is what you paid the gate guard to direct us here for? To get my opinion on the name of the kids' latest project?"

"No, Karl. We got you here to tell you who has been involved for months in setting the project up, and the delicate negotiations about which of the investors would be on the board of directors. You'll need to explain that the mayor was asked to serve on the board, but like you, felt he had to decline due to his extensive responsibilities. Likewise, three council members, including my miscreant son, have declined the opportunity to serve on the board."

Said miscreant son, Bernhard by name, bowed graciously to his father without rising from his chair. "Speaking of miscreants, go ahead and sit down, Karl. Marlene will have your Ramona describing your wedding trip in detail for at least the next hour. Ah. Your face should turn red. All the suffering you've caused all the men of consequence in this town. That Karl Schmidt would become a figure of romance I never would have imagined in my worst nightmare. You realize that I will have to hear about your wedding trip for who knows how long?"

By now Karl's face was an interesting shade of red, a sight David, Sarah, and Adolph never imagined seeing outside the heat of the foundry. The youngsters were having a certain amount of difficulty keeping their countenance bland. The idea of Mr. Schmidt as a figure of romance did not bear thinking about, especially for David and Adolph. On the other hand, Mr. Schmidt being teased was a rare joy.

Kaspar Heesters came to the rescue. "We have all the craft masters on the council, and about half the rest of the council as investors, and it worked out that each group would have one representative on the board. Herr Schroeder will be the representative of the crafts, and Herr Kunze for the patricians. There are several more from other towns in the area. In total there are forty-six initial investors including the Sewing Circle. About half are investing cash, the rest are contributing stock. The important thing here, Herr Schmidt, is that the names of those initial investors are secret. Not to keep people from knowing who they are, but rather to keep people from knowing who they aren't. This is to avoid the embarrassment to people who have claimed to be investors before there was anything to invest in. That includes most of the forty-six members, by the way. In exchange for that double layer blanket of discretion, they have made certain concessions we couldn't have otherwise obtained.

"The size of their investments is generally large. They have agreed to a seven person board and to its makeup. The board will consist entirely of down-timers, but Johan Kipper will have a seat as the representative of the Sewing Circle. The Sewing Circle will not be required to quit school and work full time for the fund. The whole project almost foundered on that point. It was only the threat of exposure that prevented it. We brought you here because it was vitally important that you know what answers to give when you are asked questions."

"Very well. What did I know? And when did I know it?" Karl asked.

"Primarily, that it was long planned, and kept secret so as to avoid potential problems in the market. The secrecy was so that every effort could be made to insure the safety of the investors before any money changed hands. In other words, the way we should have done it," said David. "Instead, we're perpetrating the next best thing to a fraud in order to protect the reputations of people who should have known better."

"Yes, we are, and you know why too, or should by now. I've explained it to you often enough in the last week." Frantz wasn't smiling now. "These are important people. They don't take well to being made to look foolish. If what actually happened came out, they would be forced to deny it, and the only way that they would have any hope of being believed is if they blamed it on someone else—which would be you four and the up-timers in general. 'No I didn't pretend to be involved in a business that doesn't exist. I was told about the fund weeks ago. When they didn't get everything they wanted, the up-timers lied and tried to make a fool out of me.' They would have to follow that up with strong and public condemnations of the Grantville Exchange, and that would do all the damage you were afraid of. Nor is it always their fault. The mayor of Eisenach wasn't even here, but he would be made to look just as foolish as the others. More than half the investors never claimed any knowledge whatsoever. Several of them publicly denied it, but were not believed. Now enough! The disaster is averted, and will remain so. We all stick with the story."

The young, thought Frantz, not for the first time that week, can be horribly self righteous. 

"So how much money will you start with?" Karl asked. "I assume that there will be enough to start either the Washing Machine Company or the Home Power Plant Company."

That got a snort from Kaspar. The one thing this venture wasn't was under funded. The Washing Machine and the Home Power Plant companies were to be funded, and as quickly as possible handed off to others so that the twins would be available to consult on other projects brought to the fund.




Other People's Money had rented, at rather great expense, offices in downtown Grantville near the exchange. Frantz had won the fight over the name.

David Bartley's secretary did not have good legs. His figure wasn't anything to write home about either. On the other hand, after a six-week intensive course he could take shorthand and was learning to type on a custom-made typewriter. He had been hired because he was conversant with down-time business practices, and getting that way with up-time ones. Leonhard was punctual, proper, and respectful. He was also something of a pain. He scheduled everything. The love of his life was a daily planner. At least that's how it seemed to David.

On David's schedule for today were a series of projects to make various things. There were two proposals to make refrigeration units. One of the standard type, though they wanted to use something else as a compression gas. The other was something called an absorption refrigerator. David had no idea how they were supposed to work. He flagged both for Trent to check out and put them in his out basket. Sitting right there on his desk was an in basket and an out basket. Every day when he got out of school, he came here, to his office, to find the in basket full and the out basket empty. The really funny thing was, he sort of liked it.

He hated telling people no, but it was worth it for the ones he got to tell yes. Especially for the ones he got to rescue. There were a lot of ideas running around loose. That was the problem. They were loose. All too often, they were loose cannons.

A good idea is a dangerous thing. "Wouldn't it be great if" or "I can make one of those."

Sure, they could make one of those—but how many could they make, and how fast and how much would they cost to make? Thank god for Trent and Sarah. The sewing machine company could have gone that way if it hadn't been for Trent fussing over details and Sarah asking how much everything would cost.

A lot of it was thinking beyond the times.

You can do this because we could up-time.  

You can't do that because they couldn't do it down-time in our universe.   

Increasingly, the new U.S. was neither down-time nor up-time, but something new. There were things that could be done in the new U.S., things that would have been harder to do up-time because up-time there was already something that was better, or at least already established. Now they were at the start of an industrial revolution, with a road map that showed places to avoid as well as places to go. One of the classes that David was really looking forward to next semester was comparative history.

He picked up the next item. This was a proposal to buy into the little light bulb shop a down-timer had set up. It was suggested by one of the backers. David had bought light bulbs there but not many, because they were expensive as all get out. Perhaps a bit less hand-making and a bit more mass production could turn the place around. Another project for the twins, David decided. Brent and Trent were starting to get irritated. They wanted to start their companies, but OPM had been so flooded they hadn't had the time. Proposals cycled through David to the twins, to Sarah, then back to David.

Next item. "Leonhard, what the heck is this?"

Leonhard didn't even look up "It's a play, Herr Barkley. Proposals of a new sort are always passed up to you."

Ah. Battle begins anew, David thought. Almost from the day he was hired, Leonhard had determined that his role was to keep David from having to deal with silly ideas. The problem was Leonhard's knowledge of what David was coming to think of as "new-time" tech could do was lacking. He lacked David's grasp of up-time tech, and more importantly the new combination of up- and down-time capabilities. In his first couple of days as secretary, Leonhard had trashed a potentially profitable idea. When the applicant approached David, he had not known what was going on. Leonhard had almost lost his job over that one. Fortunately for Leonhard, two things saved his position. David had to have a secretary as a practical necessity, and having a secretary was part of the price of letting him stay in school. Leonhard was supposed to make David's time at work be more productive. The other thing that saved Leonhard was that he never actually threw anything away, no matter how silly he considered it. He filed it. So when David asked him about it, he had it quickly to hand, and no harm done. What was worse, for tools to make tools reasons, the project wasn't practical to do it this year but David had hopes for next. The project had been moved from the silly file to the later file and Leonhard looked for new silly ideas to plague David with.

"Would you see if Sarah has a minute, please?" David asked. That brought Leonhard's head up. "If she does, I'll go over there." David picked up the next item in his in basket.

* * *

"What's the silly idea that has Leonhard spooked this time?" asked Sarah when David stepped into her office. Sarah's relationship with her secretary was rather better than David's was with Leonhard.

"Actually, I'm not sure it's silly," said David. "Someone sent us a play written by Manschylius Schultheiss. I haven't read it, and wouldn't know if it was a stinker or a masterpiece even if I had, but it got me to thinking. You know how full the theater is all the time, right? And I've been hearing talk about turning the football field into an outdoor theater. It occurs to me that if we can find someone who's good at that sort of thing, we could spawn a production company."

"I don't know." Sarah shook her head. "It's pretty high risk, and it's not like we can make movies. That's where the real money would be. Maybe we can try it later, when we can make movie film."

"Ok, I'll have Leonhard send the guy a nice note saying we're not backing that sort of venture at this time, but may do so in the future."

"Have him send back the play, too. Maybe Mr. Schultheiss can get it produced somewhere else."

* * *

"Well, David," said Kaspar, "I'm off for Amsterdam, or will be by the time you get out of school tomorrow."

"How do you think you'll do?"

"Honestly, I have no idea. When I left Amsterdam, I was unconvinced that the Ring of Fire had actually happened. We had heard stories, but even from a normally reputable source they were hard to believe. I was sent here to find out what was going on. Seeing the ring of cliffs and the difference in the land—it's not the sort of thing you tend to believe without seeing it. So it's entirely possible that I will be no more than another of the 'normally responsible people taken in by whatever is really going on.' On the other hand, I am taking back artifacts to show what's here, and what you can make. When I left, there were vague rumors about a coming crash in the tulip market. Those rumors were mostly disbelieved. Partly because though there are rare breeds that bring good sums there isn't really a tulip market. Now, there probably never will be. I've been gone three months now. I understand that some up-timers, or their representatives, have gone to Amsterdam to try to make deals. Much of what I have to tell my family and friends may be old news by the time I get there. I'm as prepared as I can be."

Kaspar smiled. He really didn't find David all that unusual. In a number of ways, David was a younger version of himself, a young merchant under the guidance of older merchants. The guidance wasn't quite so overt here, because Other People's Money was using the success of the sewing machine company and the magic of the Ring of Fire as its assurance of competence and good faith. If there was one thing the Americans did differently, it was their willingness to let anyone play. The mutual fund was not really a new concept. Similar techniques had been used by Romans to finance trading ships. The difference was the way the thing was organized to let just about anyone who could scrape up a little money in. That was the attraction, and the danger of the up-timers. They were willing to let anyone in, which meant they gathered support from the most unlikely places.

* * *

Hensin Hirsch recognized the two members of the Sewing Circle when they came in the front door. Brent and Trent were fairly famous among the teens in Grantville, down-timers especially, and by now it was common knowledge that their investment fund was starting up. What Hensin wondered was whether they were here to buy some of the light bulbs his father made, or to buy the whole shop. He rather hoped it was the latter. The truth was, they weren't doing all that well. Hensin's papa had been a master glass blower in Magdeburg before the sack. They had wandered into Grantville in August of last year. Papa had seen a light bulb work, and been captivated.

The small light bulb shop had taken a year of scrimping and saving, and money raised from three investors who had expected better results. The shop had two rooms; one occupied by finished light bulbs for sale, and one in the back where Papa made the bulbs. They had a vacuum pump from an old refrigerator, and Hensin baked linen threads till they were carbon. But between the rent, materials, and the sheer amount of time it took to make each light bulb, the price they had to charge meant sales were slow. They were barely making enough to feed themselves, let alone pay their backers.

* * *

"Master Hirsch wouldn't let us examine his shop. Trade secrets, and all that. As if we couldn't look up how to make a light bulb in the encyclopedia." Brent was disgusted at a wasted afternoon, and it showed as he flopped into the chair. The chair was nice. Tooled leather, made with up-time power tools by a combination of up- and down-time craftsmen. It matched the other seven in the meeting slash boardroom of the mutual fund. "The son was all right. I think Hensin wanted our help, but his dad would barely talk to us. I think he was really afraid that we'd tell him how to do it better, and the idea of teenagers telling him what to do freaked him."

"Okay. I guess we don't mess with light bulbs for right now. We'll look at it again in a few months," said David. "What about Gribbleflotz?"

"Herr Doktor Gribbleflotz," Trent corrected. "He is, believe it or not, related to Doktor Bombast. Apparently there really was a Bombast, and this guy is related to him. He's not really bombastic though, just sort of bitter and cynical. I felt sorry for the guy."

"So he's a nice guy," said Sarah. "What about increasing production of baking soda?"

"Hey, I never said he was a nice guy. I just said I felt sorry for him. He's a good tech, and innovative in his way, but no theoretician. My hunch is his title is his own creation. He's sort of desperate for recognition, and he really isn't interested in doing what he's doing. He just needs the money."

"If we throw some money and a fancy title at him, he'll probably do what we want," Brent added. "He explained enough about what he was doing so that I'm pretty sure we can chop up the process he uses into different steps and get all sorts of stuff. He doesn't understand the marketing or organizational parts very well."

Sarah snorted at that. In her opinion, Brent didn't understand marketing or organization at all. "So we get him a business manager." With the help of Herr Kunze she had gathered a small group of craft masters and merchants who had been introduced to up-time management practices. They were ready, willing, and able to come in and take over the management of companies OPM bought into where the people starting the business didn't know business. They were employed directly by the board in support positions, with the understanding that if an investment opportunity needed someone with their particular talents, they would have the first shot at it.

* * *

Frantz had been expecting this. He took his copy of the proposal from his desk. His office was in his home in Badenburg, a well-lit room on the second floor of his town house. The proposal was from Delia Higgins. She wanted to build a hotel on her property, fifteen stories tall. The bottom two floors would be shops and meeting rooms, the next offices, then the rooms for rent. The proposal specified the rooms would be large and luxurious, based on a room in a Holiday Inn, whatever that was. The top two floors would have a fancy restaurant and private residences. The thing that would make it all work was the elevators. It was the proposal he had been expecting, though not quite on this grand a scale. What he wasn't expecting was what the kids had done. David, in fact the entire Sewing Circle, had delivered the proposal without recommendation. No note on how it should be done, no suggestion at all as to whether OPM should buy into the project.

In a way, that fit the up-timer passion for avoiding what they called "conflicts of interest," a passion Frantz had noted was spotty in its application. Some up-timers were serious about it, others less so. He had expected a warning from the Sewing Circle to the board that they were close to the applicant which might affect their judgment. He had gotten similar warnings in several cases where they were friends with or actively disliked the applicant. Not this deafening silence. Something was wrong, and he had his suspicions about what it was. Delia Higgins had spent a great deal of money directly and indirectly on her warehouse project. She had looked into brick, quarried stone, concrete, and wood construction. With each experiment she had spent money, the largest amount on concrete. Eventually she settled on fairly standard down-time construction techniques, with concrete pillars added for support. "What do you think, Leonhard?"

"Young master Bartley was less than pleased with the proposal. I know he's been concerned over his grandmother's financial situation. I was rather expecting him to support the project for that reason. It would give Lady Higgins a much-needed influx of capital. From the discussions, it doesn't seem in any way beyond the up-timers' capabilities. While none of the children are expert in construction, there is a certain amount of expertise available. I honestly don't see anything here that can't be done. I would have expected Young Master Bartley to have approved it for reasons of family, and the rest to do so for reasons of personal loyalty to both their friend and the woman who gave them their start." Leonhard was comfortable with his role as spy for the board of directors. He liked the children well enough, but they were young. They needed to be watched for their welfare, as well as that of the board. He did find them confusing in their attitudes.

* * *

Kaspar Heesters arrived back home in Amsterdam in August of the year 1632. He arrived by sea because the water route was more suitable to the volume of goods he carried with him. The goods had filled a barge. He had many examples of new products, mostly for his own household, and to act as examples of the goods that could be bought in Grantville. They were, for the most part, things that the up-timers could make down-time. Some, though, like the small generator were, so far, borderline.

David Heesters, Kaspar's father, was a bit shocked at the amount of stuff Kaspar had brought home. He had seen that his son was provided with fairly generous living expenses and funds for some limited investments, but the mission had been primarily exploratory in nature. When he saw what was in all the crates he was shocked. It looked like his son had not only spent all the investment money on fancy toys, but had indebted the house as well. The only thing that saved him from seriously embarrassing himself was the faith he had in his son's judgment. He didn't publicly disown his son as a mad spendthrift. He waited and asked. When he learned the prices of some of the devices that his son had brought home, he became even more concerned, but no longer that his son might have wasted the family's wealth. It was simply that it was hard to believe that so much, well, stuff, could be had for so little money.

Then Kaspar showed him the typed copies of the history of the tulip bubble. "There isn't a tulip market. Yes, certain rare breeds would bring money if their owners would sell them but a market in tulips is just silly. Besides the price offered for even rare breeds of tulips has been dropping in the last month."

"Yes, Father, silly, but nonetheless real. At least it would have been if not for the Ring of Fire. What would have happened without the Ring of Fire? Someone would have been a bit short of cash and gone ahead and sold some rare tulip bulb, the buyer would be offered more for it and would sell it in turn, and the tulip bubble would start. You know the price offered for the Semper Augustus was twelve thousand guilders, for ten bulbs of a single flower. There would have been tulip dealers who bought them not through any interest in tulips but because they could, or thought they could, make a profit on them. That's how it would have gone, but the Ring of Fire did happen. There were rumors even before I left of a tulip bubble that would burst. Those rumors have caused people to be cautious about buying tulips, bringing the price down. If you have any, Father, you really ought to sell them. Because when this gets out there truly won't be a market for them."

"And where should we put our money, O sage of the future?"

Kaspar brought out the mutual fund prospectus. That took some explaining. "It works like this. I take a guilder and put it in the pot." Kaspar actually pulled out a shallow pot from one of the boxes, and put a small green printed piece of paper in it. The paper had the image of a stag printed on it. "Several other people put in what money they have for investing. The pot is then turned over to the fund managers to invest in various businesses. Each person gets shares in the fund that equal the amount of money they put in. Nothing new so far. People have been pooling their money to invest forever. But now comes the interesting part. The fund managers invest what is in the pot into various companies, and a few months later, those companies are worth more than they were when we started. But now some other people want to invest in the fund. How do you determine how much their money will buy? You take all the money and property the fund has and determine its total value as of the day the new person buys in, and divide by the number of shares outstanding. So, say there are a hundred shares and the fund is worth a hundred and fifty guilders. Each share is worth one and a half guilders. The new investor can buy shares at a price of one and a half guilders per share. The original investor doesn't lose anything because his shares are still worth the same amount."

"And when I want my money back?"

"You sell your shares back to the fund."

"Why shouldn't I invest my money on my own?" David Heesters was really just testing his son here. He understood the reason for putting money into other hands to have it invested. It always came down to expertise, time, or access.

"Would you have invested in four children who intended to build a machine that sews?"

"No, and I'm glad I didn't, because if they are selling that device for twenty-five guilders they will go broke quickly enough. It must have cost hundreds to make. Besides, even at twenty-five guilders, how many people can afford it?" But Kaspar was grinning most impudently. Clearly his son had expected the question and had an answer ready. David sat quietly and listened as his son explained. Other People's Money, it seemed, had in its management staff those same four children who had introduced not only the machines used to make the sewing machines cheaply, but the concept of rent with the option to buy, as a way of acquiring goods. This avoided the whole problem of usury, since the buyer was getting something, the use of the product and the seller was not charging interest, but rent. The children in turn were supervised and advised by local men of consequence who knew the situation, and were themselves investors in the mutual fund, including his son.

Kaspar had made his first sale in Amsterdam. It wouldn't be the last. This was a good thing, because Kaspar had a list of raw materials needed by the industries of Grantville.

* * *

Brent brought the project to OPM. It was a mechanical calculator apparently invented by someone named Curta. Terrell, one of the kids in school, had brought it to him. It was something he had from his dad. He wanted to build the Curta Calculators like the Sewing Circle had built sewing machines. The calculator was more complex. It not only added and subtracted, it multiplied and divided, and other stuff. It had about six hundred parts. Brent wasn't really looking forward to what Sarah and David would say. It was a well-worked-out plan mechanically, but only mechanically. In the whole proposal there wasn't one word about production cost, or sale price, or potential market. But he'd promised, so he sort of snuck it onto the agenda.

This wasn't the first time this had happened. They had been approached by most of the kids in school about this or that project. Mostly they had been able to say, honestly, that they didn't have the kind of money it would take to start up a company, that they couldn't sell their stock without their parents' permission, that permission hadn't been forthcoming until OPM, and even with OPM, Mom and Dad hadn't allowed them to sell it all, only two thousand shares each. On the other hand, each and every member of the Sewing Circle had a portfolio of stocks in kid-started companies, a few of which were doing all right. Now the excuse not to back the projects of their fellow students was in desperate need of a rethink. OPM was designed as a source of venture capital for new start-ups, as well as to buy stock in established businesses. The kids from school had apparently decided it was time to try again.

Oddly enough, David thought they could do something with this idea. "It's like a useful Faberge egg. Expensive as hell, pretty and intricate, but this one does stuff. There's a good excuse to pull it out and show it off. It could be the next best thing to having a computer in terms of status, better in some ways, because it works without electricity. Give a couple away to important people, and everyone who thinks they're important will want one."

"They'll need a manager," said Sarah. "A couple of engineering types will spend the investment tinkering. Do you really think we can sell enough to get back our investment?"

"Don't know." David shrugged.

"Have them build a couple of prototypes. Find someone important to give one to and then see how many people ask for one," said Trent, who had become convinced that the stupidest thing they had done in starting HSMC was not building a prototype.

"It would have to be pretty," David added. "What I would really like to do is have the case in glass but that's not strong enough. Gold electroplated?"

* * *

Sarah entered the Higgins house wishing she was anywhere else. David was chickening out, so were Brent and Trent. Someone had to talk to Mrs. Higgins. Liesel took her coat and asked her to wait in the living room. The down-time servants were having a strangely civilizing effect on the hillbilly up-timers. It was less than a minute before Liesel ushered Sarah into Delia Higgins' sewing room where the original Singer sewing machine was shoved into a corner. Mrs. Higgins was working at a desk David had bought for her. Liesel quietly closed the door behind her as she left. This was horrible, the worst thing Sarah had ever had to do. After Mrs. Higgins had had so much faith in them and sold her dolls. David was a wimp to leave Sarah to do it. Except David didn't know that she was here, and would be mad when he found out.

"What's wrong Sarah? You look like your dog just died."

"Well, Mrs. Higgins. It's, well, the thing is..."

"Have you and David had a fight?"

"Yes, ma'am, but it wasn't about this, or maybe it was. I don't know."

Delia looked at her with sympathy. "Sit down, Sarah, and tell me about it," she said, waving Sarah to a chair. "What was the fight about? You know teenaged boys can be fickle, ruled by their hormones. Has David..."

"No. Nothing like that," Sarah smiled for a moment. In that area, at least, she had David well in hand. Then she remembered why she was here and the smile faded.

"It's the hotel. Isn't it? The fund isn't going to invest in the hotel?" Delia had gotten part of it.

"Sort of. Ah. Well."

"Well what?" Delia was impatient now. "Spit it out."

Sarah did, in a rush. "David doesn't think they should, and he's right. I'm sorry, Mrs. Higgins. If it was David's money he'd do it, you know he would. But it's not. Its other people's money, and not just big fat-cats, but widows, and orphans, and working stiffs, and well... David delivered your proposal to the board, and Herr Kunze turned right around and said the board would go along with whatever David recommended. I think he figured something was wrong when David presented it with no recommendation. Now David's trying to figure out a way he can finance the whole thing himself so he doesn't have to tell you no, or put other people's money in a bad investment. He won't even let the rest of us help. That's what our fight was about, sort of. David is trying to run everything, take everything on. But he's right about the hotel. The warehouse was poorly planned and overbuilt, and we're all afraid that the hotel will be too. And the thing he really doesn't want to say is that it would be a good project, and a sure moneymaker, if you weren't..."

Sarah ran down, ready to cry. She hadn't meant to say that last part.

* * *

Delia was in too much shock to be in any danger of tears. That would come later. Delia Higgins was a capable lady, and a good woman. But this was a hard pill to swallow. She wanted to find a reason that Sarah was wrong. She didn't want to believe that her faith in David was not returned. But the pieces were falling into place, his hesitation on certain subjects, his recommendation that she check things with Judy Wendell and other experts. How, often when she did, those experts had explained some error she had made. And how she had recently mostly stopped checking, even when David suggested she should.

And Sarah's last words: A sure moneymaker if you weren't... If she wasn't what? In charge? Involved? Apparently, it wasn't the hotel that David had the problem with, but her.

"What is the problem?" Delia asked with precision. Much as some one might ask a doctor about the amputation of their leg.

Sarah sat mute.

"You have to tell me, Sarah." Still in that detached tone. "It's me, in some way, isn't it?"

"Yes, ma'am. It is." Sarah tried for Delia's detached tone, but didn't quite bring it off. "There is such a thing as being too generous. The money you've spent on the concrete program will be good for the New U.S., but in terms of getting the warehouse built, it was mostly wasted. The condos you built onto the warehouse to house the staff were a very nice gesture, and it's made you very popular with your employees. It was also a pretty expensive gesture. The deal you worked out to build the warehouse set things up so that no matter how much you spent on it you would pay and it wouldn't affect the other stockholders' income. Nice for them, but it means that you're not going to get back your investment for years. All that's okay, as long as it's your money you're dealing with, though it worries the people who care about you. David figures you'll have to sell as much as ten thousand shares of HSMC to handle the balloon payment on your loans come January. That's all fine. It's your money that you got from selling your dolls and trusting us. But the truth is, even there we got lucky. We really didn't know what we were doing. This last year has been a very intense business course for all of us. Each and every one of us would do things differently now. Important things. Things that could have sunk the whole deal if we hadn't been lucky. If Karl hadn't fallen for David's mom we'd probably be struggling to stay in business right now. He wouldn't have had any reason to look for another option; he would have gone into competition with us. We needed someone like Karl, someone who actually knew how to run a business. Someone who wasn't making it up as they went along, or reading it out of a textbook they didn't really understand. Don't get me wrong. Karl needed us too, especially right at first, to show him up-timer tricks. I wouldn't bet on it happening that way though. Not now."

"So you're saying that betting on you kids was a bad investment?" Delia was almost bemused now.

"Yes, and if you ever tell Mr. Walker over at the bank I said so, I'll deny it," Sarah said, trying to inject a little humor into the discussion.

* * *

The party was a bit less successful than I had hoped, Kaspar thought, as he was seeing the last guest to the door. This was his public welcome-home party, and the one at which he had introduced the mutual fund. His family had invited the wealthiest people they knew, twenty-three merchants of means. He had shown the goodies from the New U.S. and described things that might be made in the future. Then he had talked about the OPM Mutual Fund. How it worked. What it had to offer. Sales had been less than expected, but everyone had taken a prospectus. This made Kaspar feel hopeful. Surely they just need some time to think about it.  

Two days later he learned of the forming of another mutual fund. Then he heard about two more the next day, and two more the day after that. By the time of the next OPM party, there were five mutual funds available for purchase in Amsterdam. The funds specialized in shipping ventures, commodities trading, and even one in tulips.

That last was the one that bothered him the most. One of the topics of discussion had been the aborted tulip market. Now that the Ring of Fire had warned everyone, that market wouldn't happen. He knew it, and he was quite sure the fund managers of the tulip fund knew it. So why? Was the tulip fund a way to dump tulips, by suckering lots of people for a little rather than a few people for a lot? But why would they need to dump tulips? Was it possibly an attempt to start the tulip craze early? But that was silly. With the documents he'd brought there wouldn't be a tulip craze.

His father told Kaspar simply to make sure his name didn't get tainted with the tulip fund. And how am I to manage that? Kaspar wondered.

* * *

Kaspar was called in by the authorities shortly thereafter, to provide them with an explanation of mutual funds and how they worked. He spent two days being grilled. He stated for the record, his disapproval and suspicions of the tulip fund, but he ran into a problem. There was an important clause in the fund contracts that OPM and the tulip fund shared. For OPM it was what David called the "twins" clause and everyone else called the "Sewing Circle" clause. On that first day, when OPM was forming itself out of rumor and innuendo, the rumor that Trent and Brent would be financed exclusively in the production of washing machines and home power plants by OPM, had, like so many others become fact. So a clause had been inserted into the OPM contract that specifically allowed OPM to invest in businesses started or controlled by David Bartley, Brent Partow, Trent Partow, and Sarah Wendell, even while they were employed by the fund. Kaspar didn't explain all that. He simply pointed out that the youngsters involved were thought lucky as well as talented. They were a sort of combination of young Leonardo De Vinci and rabbits' feet.

The tulip fund managers had put a similar clause in their contract. Actually, they had left one out. There was no restriction on the fund managers as to what they might, or might not, buy from, or sell to, the fund. This meant they had the right to buy and sell tulips, or anything else, to the fund at a price they set.

"Since the fund manager is both the buyer and the seller," Kaspar explained, "it's unlikely there will be much bargaining, especially since it's his money on the one side and other people's money on the other. Unless he's an unusually generous fellow, it's not hard to guess who is going to get the better of the deal."

The tulip fund managers had apparently not made a point of bringing up the missing clause when discussing their mutual fund with potential buyers. In fact, the clerk of the "inquisition" hadn't been aware of it till Kaspar had pointed it out. Kaspar showed them the restrictions on OPM board members. OPM board members could not sell commodities or stocks to OPM or buy them from OPM. All investments had to be authorized by the board. A member of the board of OPM could buy shares in OPM or sell them, but that was about it. The possibility of sweetheart deals was there, but required a third party.

It took a few days before it became clear what the tulip fund meant. Its founders had apparently heard the rumors of the tulip bubble but had read them differently. They had felt that if it had happened it would happen, and decided to get in on the ground floor and sell out at the top. They had not considered the changes the Ring of Fire would make in the markets. When Kaspar explained the effects the Ring of Fire had already had, they had realized their error and decided that a mutual fund would be just the way to get out safely. What Kaspar found most remarkable was that they had called it the "tulip fund." They might as well have painted a sign saying come and be fleeced. His father was less surprised, and concluded that it was pure and simple arrogance.

* * *

When what Kaspar told them to look for was found, it made him both friends and enemies in Amsterdam. It had also defined him to the city as the acknowledged expert on mutual funds. That was not all together a good thing. It made explaining the special provision for the sewing circle harder, and some people assumed that since he could use a fund to defraud them, he would.

The tulip fund had not broken any laws, nor had its managers quite broken the contract. What they had done was sell their tulips to the fund at a nice profit for themselves. They had then sold their shares in the fund, leaving the other investors in the fund holding the bag of tulips. It had gotten them out of the tulip market at no financial loss. It had also pointed out the dangers involved in any investment where the people you're dealing with aren't honest. The tulip fund managers had been fairly selective in choosing their victims from those without a lot of political clout. But while the victims individually didn't have much clout, collectively they had some. The idea of a class action suit was put forward, but the fund managers hadn't actually done anything illegal. It looked like the outcome would be that the managers of the tulip fund would come out of it financially sound, but would never again be trusted to create and manage a fund. Their general reputations as men of business had also taken a hit, for which they blamed Kaspar Heesters.

Between the tulip fund and the resentment of the technical prowess of the up-timers, there was a segment of the Amsterdam power structure that didn't really like the New U.S. Kaspar spent quite a lot of time mending what fences he could. For a while it looked like mutual funds would be outlawed in Amsterdam. The other funds were more honest, though, and mutual funds were an excellent way of allowing people to invest with relative safety in ventures that they could not afford to participate in, or have access to, without mutual funds. The shipping fund and the various commodities funds came to his rescue. In a strange way, so did the attack on Grantville.

* * *

With the tulip fund and the other complications, Kaspar had already been home longer than he had intended. He wanted to leave the sales of OPM shares in his father's hands and return to Grantville with its movies and indoor plumbing. Then the rumors about Spanish troops on the move began to hit Amsterdam. Suddenly everyone was terrified that the up-timers, and more importantly, their investments would be wiped out by a Spanish army. Kaspar had a decision to make. He would be within his legal rights to insist that investors who wished to withdraw from the fund lose the loading. Loading is a fee charged when you buy into a mutual fund, and when you sell out of one quickly. Because of the distance and communication lag, OPM shares were bought in Amsterdam at a price dependent on the share price when the money arrived in Grantville, but they were bought when the agent received the money. Kaspar had already received the money, but he didn't insist that the panicky investors sacrifice the loading. Instead he voided the contracts and gave them their money back. He resolved to ride it out.

It was an especially difficult decision because of his second job in Amsterdam. He was buying raw materials. The idea was that he would use OPM investment money to buy things like lacquer, iron, silk, chocolate (if he could find any), and other supplies needed by the industry and consumer base in and around the Ring of Fire. The profits on the deal would go to OPM. By now Kaspar had bought quite a lot and contracted for even more. He had to go to his father and ask for help. He managed to convince his father that Grantville would survive.

* * *

Delia Higgins was sitting at her desk, explaining to herself, again, how she had been right in her decisions about the warehouse. Granted it was a lot of money, but she wasn't just thinking about the warehouse. She was trying to develop the infrastructure for building the hotel. The concrete program at the school was developing a group of young people who could make structural concrete, and form it into structures that would support tremendous weight. Hiring Michel Kappel was done both to get a down-time builder familiar with up-time building techniques, and as favor for Karl Schmidt. Claus Maurer was a master builder with more experience than Herr Kappel, but again, part of the reason for hiring him was to get him familiar with the available up-time tech. It wasn't her fault that they had fought with each other and with the teachers at the tech center and Carl over at Kelly Construction. Besides, materials were so expensive that the cheapest halfway decent material was quarried granite from the ring wall.

The radio, which had been quietly playing the morning music program in the corner, became suddenly louder. "Attention! There is an attack!" the radio blared. "Raiders, probably Croats, but we don't have that for sure yet, are attacking the high school and the town! Becky is at the high school." The announcer was clearly upset though not quite in a panic. "Chief Frost wants everyone from..." There followed a list of streets and locations to be evacuated and places for the people to go. "Everyone else who is not part of the reserves should arm themselves and stay secure in their homes."

Delia Higgins stayed in her home and listened to live reports of the battle on the radio. She thought about how stupid the fight over the hotel was.

When faced with the flat-out choice of investing in the hotel with other people's money, David had turned down her proposal. He'd then tried to finance it on his own, not even allowing the other members of the Sewing Circle to help. And what did I expect him to do? David has always been a stubborn little cuss, and I've encouraged him in it more than most as long as it applied to Ramona or Karl, but when he looked at me, at my project and didn't approve... David's lack of faith in my judgment. Ha! That was his job. To use his best judgment and determine if a project could do what it claimed it could. He's just been trying to do what was right. 

In the weeks since Sarah had broken the news, Delia had made her displeasure known, but she and David had never actually talked about it. Delia had done the right thing. She had called the bank and put a temporary freeze on David using his shares as collateral for a loan, so he couldn't invest his own future in her hotel project. But she had done it for all the wrong reasons. She hadn't done it to protect David. She had done it to show that it wasn't the money that she was upset about, but David's lack of understanding of what she was trying to do. Now, with the Croats raiding the school, she wondered if she would ever have a chance to heal the breach.

* * *

Lauer Traugott was living and working in Kassel. He had been a tailor in Badenburg before the Ring of Fire, of moderate skill but good business sense. Now he ran a sewing machine shop and hardware store in Kassel, where he had relatives. Over all, he was fairly pleased with his situation. Among the attractions of his shop was the only radio in town. It had been pulled from a 1984 Ford that hadn't run for years before the Ring of Fire. It had a twelve-volt car battery and a pedal-cranked generator that provided power for it. It picked up the one and only radio station in the world, the Voice of America, or, as it was also known the "VOA." From a bit before dawn to a few hours after and again in the evenings around sunset, it reported the news and provided entertainment and education to anyone with a radio. Most radios were crystal sets, but his was a real up-time "transistor" radio. This morning the program was music and he was mostly enjoying this alone. Later this evening there would be a class in sewer systems, and his shop would be full of kids and some adult parents picking up some up-time knowledge.

"There is an attack!" the radio blared. Lauer sat entranced and frightened as the events and instructions unfolded. There was a vivid description of Chief of Police Dan Frost standing in the middle of the street and bringing the Croat charge to a crashing halt. There was less information about what was happening at the school. It was horribly frustrating. There would be a few minutes of what was going on in one place, then a delay while the announcer described and discussed what they knew of the overall situation, then a vivid description of what was going on somewhere else. The Spanish attacks on Eisenach and Suhl were proclaimed to be no more than diversions. By the time the radio cut off for the morning the attack had been repelled, but the number of casualties and amount of damage that Grantville had suffered was not clear yet. What was clear was that the attack would have been worse if a contingent of the king of Sweden's army hadn't shown up to save the day.

That evening, Lauer and a considerable contingent of Kassel's elite were sitting by the radio when VOA came on the air. "Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to report that there were very few casualties from this morning's attack." The announcer went on to name every person killed or injured in the attack. It was a short list. One American woman and a few Finns killed in the actual attack, some wood-cutters killed as the Croats snuck in, some injuries, not quite twenty names all told. "Two hundred and thirty-four Croat bodies have been found so far, and more than twice that number of injured have been captured." It was a terrifying thing. Three armies sent, two as a distraction, three armies destroyed, and Grantville not even hurt, just angered. The battle was discussed in some detail, and the anger at Wallenstein's Croats' focus on the high school was clear. Then things got vague. It was clear that something politically important had happened, but not exactly what.

The real news came the next day. Gustav Adolf, the king of Sweden, had led the Finnish rescuers himself. He and the President of the New United States had negotiated an alliance forming the Confederated Principalities of Europe. More, the New U.S. was to receive the administration of additional lands. Kassel would not be part of the New U.S., but it was part of the CPE. While all the details hadn't been worked out, the outline of the agreement said one thing clearly to anyone that would listen. The New United States now had a protector and the king of Sweden had a new ally, both militarily and economically. It would take the news a bit longer to reach Amsterdam, but it had traveled better than a third of the way instantly.

* * *

David Heesters was sitting his office and fretting. Kaspar was worried as well, he could tell. It had been almost a week since the news of the Spanish army had hit town. When the message from Lauer Traugott arrived it was a surprise. David had never heard of the man. Well, the message was to Kaspar. Kaspar it turned out had met the man a total of once. Kaspar had received the message with apparent trepidation, read it, and passed it on. God, it seemed, would not allow Grantville to be destroyed or even badly damaged. It read like one of the westerns Kaspar had told him of, with the cavalry riding to rescue at the last moment.

"You need to do something nice for Herr Traugott, son. He is a man who can think quickly and well." Hiring the messenger to make the trip was not cheap. Now, at least a few hours ahead of most of Amsterdam, they had the news that the expected attack had been thwarted, that future attacks were unlikely, and were even less likely to succeed and that the ease with which Grantville could reach new markets was greatly increased. All in all, the New U.S. had come out of the attack rather better off than it had been before.

Now for the important question, what to do about it? David Heesters had no doubt. He could get backing, based on this letter, to buy commodities whose value had fallen when the rumors of attack had started. When Kaspar had started buying things in the Amsterdam markets, the price of the commodities that Grantville needed had increased. When the rumors of an attack on Grantville and the up-timers had surfaced, the price of those commodities had fallen bellow what they had originally been. When this got out, prices would shoot through the roof. Herr Traugott's messenger was standing tiredly in the corner.

"Herr?" David Heesters asked, looking at the messenger.

"Fiedler, sir."

"I understand from the message you carry that you were promised a bonus of five guilders if the message reached us in good time and its contents were not discussed with anyone?"

"Yes, sir. That's what Herr Traugott told me. I haven't said a word about what the radio told us to anyone." Clearly Herr Fielder was a bit concerned about his bonus.

"Good man," David Heesters continued. "If you will consent to be our guest for the next two days and fill your mouth with the best food we can manage instead of gossip, I'm minded to make the bonus a full ten guilders."

Herr Fiedler grinned, showing some missing teeth. "I never was one for gossip, sir, and do enjoy a good meal now and again. Not but what the news we heard over the radio doesn't make a good story, but I'll be content enough to let others tell it for the next few days."

"Very well then. I may want to talk to you some more later. But for now..." He rang for a servant. "Show Herr Fiedler to the blue room, and see if you can come up with something especially nice for his dinner."

"So, Father, who do we ask?" Kaspar had clearly realized the situation.

"Not, I think, the tulip fund." David Heesters grinned at his son. "And we must move quickly."

They spent a few minutes discussing who to contact. They would need to tell some potential investors. Show them the message, and then find through them an agent who was not associated with OPM, and arrange for them to do the buying. Messages were sent quietly.

Herr Fiedler spent some of the next morning "gossiping" to selected friends of the Heesters. They had most of that day before another messenger arrived with a somewhat garbled account of the Battle of Grantville. By then they had most of the goods Kaspar was supposed to get. Then the merchants of Amsterdam started putting it all together and the orders for OPM shares started pouring in. It was all very exciting, and seemed, to many, proof of divine favor.

* * *

"I'd like to see Mr. Walker."

"What is this in regard to?" Jackie Lowry asked. Sarah Wendell had had run-ins with Coleman Walker before. Indirectly, when he had refused the loan to start HSMC, and later on directly, when she was negotiating to sell the paper on rent with the option to buy purchases of sewing machines.

"A deposit."

"I can take care of that for you." Jackie didn't want another fight.

"Not this one." Sarah opened a briefcase and showed letters on parchment. Parchment was not a good sign. It was expensive and tended to be used only for very large transactions. The number of letters was not a good sign either. Jackie yielded to the inevitable and called Mr. Walker.

Sarah was suffering the financial version of buck fever as she strode into Mr. Walker's office. OPM was in danger of failing from its success. She needed Mr. Walker's help. At the same time it was a vindication.

* * *

Coleman Walker was a small-town banker who had been faced with a very sudden change of circumstance a bit over a year ago. He was also a stubborn man. The combination had had a few negative repercussions. In general he had done pretty well, first in setting the initial exchange rate, then in making a lot of very good loans. Coleman had a wife and two sons. He was a firm believer in the bunghole theory of child rearing: "put them in a barrel and feed them through a bung hole." The standard bunghole theory says to drive in the bung when they turn eighteen. Coleman's version suggested the bung should be driven in about twelve and they should be let out to go into the army at eighteen. When they came back they would be people. Probably to everyone's advantage most of the family's child rearing was done by his wife. He had never been comfortable around children. He didn't have much faith in their judgment. Hadn't when he was a child, hadn't when he was raising his boys, and didn't now.

There was a grand total of one exception to that rule. Making that exception had taken most of the last year, and had not been a comfortable process. The exception was walking into his office. The fact that he had come to respect Sarah Wendell didn't make him fond of her. In fact she was an affront to many of his most deeply held beliefs. His explanation of Sarah Wendell was that she was a freak of nature, like a two-headed goat. But from what Jackie had said, she was a two-headed goat with money. And the Bank of Grantville needed money. The Bank of Grantville now had two sections, the Reserve and the Bank. The Reserve determined how much money the Bank could loan out. The Bank part was getting close to the limit. Coleman didn't want to raise the limit because he was afraid people would lose confidence in the dollar. He was, however; fully aware of the need for more money. They needed money to finance the industrial revolution, especially the roads. Getting the products of Grantville industry to the surrounding towns and villages was expensive. "Miss Wendell, I understand you have some deposits."

"Yes sir." Sarah smiled. "Herr Heesters' trip to Amsterdam produced rather larger investments in OPM than we had hoped for." She started pulling out the documents. Most of them were certificates confirming ownership of this or that product: lacquer, silk, chocolate, and other goods, each with an estimated value in guilders. Then she got to the one directly from Bank of Amsterdam, all properly set out, assigning ownership of a large amount of silver to OPM. The silver itself was still sitting comfortably in Amsterdam. But this wasn't the first such note the bank had received, just the largest. By far the largest.

* * *

Kaspar's trip to Amsterdam had brought a tremendous addition of funds to OPM, making it possible to invest in larger projects. In light of that and Delia's willingness to accept the aid of a financial manager, the hotel project with modifications was finally agreed on in late 1632. Brent and Trent never actually got to start their respective companies, not exactly. They ended up handing them off to friends from school and managers provided by OPM. The Partow Washing Machine Corporation, PWMC, used Trent's designs and the Home Power Plant Corporation, HPPC, used Brent's, but though they did own stock they never actually ran either company. PWMC started putting out usable human-powered washing machines in the spring of 1633, about the time that Johan Kipper met Darlene Braun. But that's another story.




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