For All Nails #234: A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Montagu

by Johnny Pez

Santa María Magdalena Hospital
Bogotá, Kingdom of New Granada
28 July 1975

The ironic thing about being in hospital, Sophia thought to herself, was that there was no one to come and visit her.

Ever since the Bornholm Allies had begun their "lightning" bombing raids on Bogotá, one of Sophia's duties had been to visit the injured victims in their hospital beds. She would speak with them briefly, ask about their injuries, commiserate with them about lost loved ones, and assure them that their sacrifices were not in vain. At the time, she had always felt like the most useless fool in the kingdom. After all, just how much comfort could some grief-stricken subject derive from having a silly monarch come in and blather at them?

Rather a lot, Sophia now knew. Although her hearing had returned within an hour of the attack, she had suffered a fractured ulna and was now confined to a bed in one of the very hospitals she had so often visited before. Fernando, on the other hand, had escaped the attack without a scratch, and was now out and about, showing the people of New Granada that their young king was none the worse for his harrowing experience. Now Sophia was all alone, except for Lupe, who had also escaped the attack unscathed.

Lupe was now curled up at the foot of her bed, and though Sophia was fond of the cat, she couldn't look at her without thinking about Daisy. Lupe had been Daisy's wedding present to Sophia, and she knew now that for the rest of the cat's life, she would be a constant reminder of Daisy's death. Sophia could still see, as vividly as life, Daisy's broken, blood-soaked body pinned to the floor by the splintered end of a wooden beam.

If she had to lie here in this bed, with nothing but the image of her dead friend to keep her company, Sophia knew that she would go mad. There were no books in the hospital room, and a blackout curtain covered the window. It was as close to being in hell as she could imagine.

Sophia reached out with her good arm and pressed the button by her bed.

Less than a minute later, one of the Sisters came into the room. "Yes, Your Majesty, what can I do for you?"

"You can help me out of this bed, for one thing," said Sophia.

The Sister's look was disapproving. "Now, Your Majesty, you know what the doctor said."

"He said I was to rest," Sophia answered. "And I have rested. I'm tired of resting, and if that's an oxymoron I'm sorry, but it's true. If I don't find something to do, I'm going to go stark raving mad. As long as I'm going to be in hospital anyway, I might as well do some good. I'd like to visit with the other patients here. I'm sure they'll appreciate the company, and I'm quite certain that I would."

The Sister considered her request for a moment, then said, "I'll see what the doctor has to say."

"Thank you, Sister," Sophia answered. It was the best she could hope for at the moment.

Presently Doctor Aljadad entered and gave her his standard Smile For Troublesome Patients. "Sister Maria Consuela tells me that you wish to visit with your fellow patients."

"Yes, doctor," said Sophia. "I reckon that as long as I'm going to be staying here in any case, I might as well carry on with my normal round of royal visits with the sick and injured. After all, I might be a patient myself, but I am still their Queen. And if I should come over all faintish, why, here I am, already in hospital."

The standard smile faded away, which Sophia took to be a good sign. "Normally," said the doctor, "I would prefer for someone in your condition to avoid strenuous activity." Did he mean her injured condition or her pregnant condition, or both? Men, even doctors, seemed to believe that both were equally incapacitating. "However, your point about your fellow patients is well made. I believe it would be beneficial for them to receive Your Majesty."

"Thank you, doctor."

With help from the Sister, Sophia was soon up and dressed. Thus attired, and with her left arm in a cast, the Queen of New Granada made her way through the familiar corridors of Santa María Magdalena. Her first stop was in one of the Women's Wards, where to her surprise she found herself at the bedside of an injured airmobile pilot from North America.

Despite her short hair (made shorter on one side by the need to suture a scalp wound) and green eyes, and an older scar on her left cheek, Sophia found that looking at the injured pilot was like looking into a mirror. The charge nurse introduced the pilot as Mary Smith, but it wasn't difficult for Sophia to tell that the name was an assumed one.

"Hello, um, Your, uh, Majesty," the woman said in Manitoba-accented English.

"Call me Sophia," said Sophia in the same language. "How did you come to be in this place?"

"Sheer fu--, er, sheer stupidity, Sophia. The limones usually don't fly at night, so I wasn't looking out for them."

"And what were you doing at the time that attracted their attention?"

"Airlifting some wounded troops from Ciudad Camacho," said the pilot. "At least I got 'em down all right. Last I heard, they're all at the base hospital in Campo Nariño. Me, they sent here because I'm a civilian."

"If you don't mind my asking," said Sophia, "what brought you to New Granada in the first place?"

The pilot was silent for a time before she said, "I was looking for someone here, but I didn't find him. I got work as a bush pilot down south in the New Territories, and when the war started up the FANG hired me as a cargo pilot. It's good work, and I know I'm making a difference."

There was a look of resolve in the pilot's eyes that Sophia hadn't expected to find there. The Queen said, "I know that a war zone isn't the safest place to be. And it's not as though this is your fight. So why do you do it?"

The pilot's green eyes held Sophia's own. "This war is wrong," she said. "Those bastards out there have got no reason to attack this country. These people were betrayed by Mercator, just like--" She broke off, then finished, "Just like the Mexicans were. Now he's left them to take the blame for what he did, and that's just wrong. This is my fight, Sophia, and these are my people, just like they're yours. That's why I do it."

It was clear to Sophia that there was a lot that the pilot was leaving out. There was a personal dimension to her fight on behalf of New Granada, just as there was now a personal dimension to Sophia's own rage against Sir Geoffrey Sodding Gold and his Nat minions. She reached out and took the pilot's hand in her own. "Whatever your reasons," she said, "I want you to know that your efforts are appreciated. On my behalf, and on behalf of the people of this country, our people, I'd like to say thank you, for all you've done."

"Well, Sophia, Your Majesty, I just want to tell you the same thing. I heard about what happened to you, and to Miss Fuentes. These people know that you care about them, and they care about you, too. I've never been all that crazy about royalty, but for someone like you, I can make an exception."

The pilot held her hand for a moment more, then relaxed her grasp. "Thanks for stopping by, Your Majesty." With a wink, she added, "Keep 'em flying."

"Likewise, I'm sure," said Sophia. She was about to leave, when a sudden thought made her add, "If you'd like, I can try and help you find that man you were looking for."

The pilot shook her head. "He isn't important to me anymore. I've found something better to do with my life."

Forward to FAN #235: Captain Confederation.

Forward to 29 July 1975: Operation Guinevere.

Forward to American War/New Granada: Closing Walls and Ticking Clocks.

Forward to Ev and Alex: Be My Guest.

Return to For All Nails.

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