For All Nails #284: And This Bird You'll Never Tame

by David Mix Barrington

Municipal Airfield
Ephesus, Georgia, S.C., CNA FN1
20 October 1977

Governor-General Lennart Skinner gave a last wave to the cheering crowd and ducked into the hatch of the small airmobile. A short, uncomfortable hop to Birmingham, he thought, then into the regular vehicle, which was too large to land in Ephesus. Back to Burgoyne and his own bed by midnight, with any luck.

It had been a good trip. Gus' campaign was shaping up fine, not that the boy needed his Pappy's help to win the safe Liberal Council seat in Cornwallis. But it was a good time to show the flag, whip up some excitement at the Harvest Festival in front of some national vitacameras, and get a good look at Gus in action. And Gus looked mighty fine. Ready, in fact, to send round to some other districts around the country to boost some other candidates, the same way the RJP was fixing to do with that space girl. Delaware, for example -- that was one seat that would be hard to keep this time around, and they knew Gus there. FN2

The rattling of the wheels abruptly stopped as they took to the air. He was going to need every close seat to keep his job this time around, to keep it by an elected majority anyway. A lot of people were still out of work -- pushing ten percent, the worst in decades. He could argue, truthfully, that things were turning around. The growth numbers proved that, but until the growth numbers started turning into men coming off the reserve lists and back to their jobs, the voters weren't going to be happy. The money people said that by February there'd even be a good number of new jobs along with the rehires. The theme of the campaign was going to be that he'd beaten the British and was starting to beat the business downturn as well. Make the case perfectly, and he'd keep the majority. Make it reasonably well, and he'd have more seats than Moncreiff's PC. (And a damn good thing for him that Monaghan had lost control of the party. That hadn't been why he'd kept the former G-G as his envoy to Mexico for so long -- no one else had the rapport with Moctezuma he needed to coordinate what amounted to a military alliance -- but it was an unexpected benefit.)

With any luck, he'd be in a position to win with the help of either minor party while Moncreiff would need both of them. Moncreiff currently had the RJP in his camp, but that could change easily enough, more easily than Moncreiff could bring in the Masonists. And he could talk to the Masonists too, now that they had a new leader who wasn't a complete lunatic. The airmobile seemed to be levelling off.

This plan assumed, of course, that the election would be fought mostly on domestic policy, meaning on mostly jobs. But Moncreiff was going to try to argue that the Liberal government, and by implication Carter Monaghan, were too accommodating to the Mexicans. That was pure hog-slops, he knew, as better relations were clearly in the interest of both countries and he'd gotten as much as he'd given. But Moncreiff's argument was about to get some more traction.

Skinner had in his hand, or at least on the airmobile seat next to him, a confidential report from the CBI that confirmed what Markey and the other surveyors had been saying for a few days. Henry Costigan, not Maria del Rey, was about to be elected President of the United States of Mexico. You couldn't be two hundred proof sure, not when the damn country hadn't had a competitive presidential election since 1950, and had botched the Hell out of that one. But the God-damned dwarf was ten points ahead in the surveys, up six points from the week before, with every indication of Señora Del Rey's support collapsing even further.

He wouldn't trust every vote counter in Mexico, but the CBI was confident that Moctezuma's election reforms had straightened things out enough, enough to keep the stolen votes in the hundreds of thousands and not millions. FN3 And she was going to need millions to come back. Costigan was purely a pain in the old behind, for sure. He'd risen from obscurity in large part due to his quick wit. Mexican voters liked to be entertained -- Hell, Mercator had basically been a frustrated vita comedian -- and Costigan gave them good jokes largely at the CNA's expense. When it came to policy, now, there wasn't too much difference between them. If anything, Costigan's business backers wanted more trade with the CNA while del Rey's wanted less. The pilot's voice came over the outspeaker. "Ladies and gentlemen, would you please fasten your safety belts?"

But he, Skinner, wanted to run on peace and friendship with Mexico as part of his great achievements, didn't he? And how was he to make the case that he'd achieved peace and friendship with some pipsqueak whose chief rhetorical concern was exalting his national manhood over the CNA's? The airmobile took a sudden lurch, landing most of Skinner's Transylvanian in his lap.

Transcript of Wireless Communications
20 October 1977
From Report of the Macdonald Commission (Burgoyne, 1978)
Pilot: [Joseph Pigott, commanding chartered airmobile carrying 
       G-G Skinner, nine other passengers, and three other crew] 
       (6:42 p.m.) Washington, this is Charter Seven-Two.

ATW:   [Lawrence West, Air Traffic Warden at Martin Washington 
       Field, Birmingham, Georgia]  Go ahead, Seven-Two.

Pilot: Washington, I have encountered unexpected turbulence 
       starting two minutes ago.

ATW:   Acknowledged, Seven-Two, what is your status?

Pilot: Washington, my port engine has failed, I am maintaining
       attitude with my starboard engine.

ATW:   Acknowledged, Seven-Two, do you propose continuing existing
       flight plan for landing Washington Field?

Pilot: Affirmative, Washington, request clearance to approach intending
       runway northwest by north. FN4

ATW:   (pause of twenty seconds) Seven-Two, affirmative, you are clear 
       to approach northwest by north.  Radiolocator has you at speed 
       210 knots, altitude two-eight, range four-six miles.  Be advised 
       we are showing cloud cover over Oak Mountain.  Over.

Pilot: Thank you, Washington, I see it.

Pilot: (6:46 p.m.) Washington, this is Seven-Two.  I am entering
       clouds.  Speed 200 knots, altitude two-four, range three-two

ATW:   Seven-Two, repeat status please.

Pilot: Speed 200 knots, altitude, two-four, range three-two miles.

ATW:   Seven-Two, my radiolocator has your altitude one-six repeat 
       one-six, please acknowledge.

Pilot: (pause) Washington, acknowledge your transmission my altitude 
       is one-six.  Increasing altitude.

ATW:   (6:48 p.m.) Seven-two, report status.

Pilot: I show altitude two-six.

ATW:   Seven-two, I have you at one-five.  There's a mountain at one-three. 

Pilot: Acknowledged, Washington, I am attempting to increase altitude.

ATW:   (6:49 p.m.) Seven-two, are you changing course, over?

Pilot: Negative, Washington, maintaining heading for northwest by north, over.

ATW:   Seven-two, accept course correction, change heading due west,
       acknowledge.  (pause) Please acknowledge.

ATW:   (6:50 p.m) Seven-Two, please come in, over.  Seven-Two, this is 
       Washington, please come in, over.  Seven-Two, please acknowledge.

[Requiescant in pace: Cassie Gaines, Steve Gaines, Dean Kilpatrick, and Ronnie Van Zant.]

Forward to FAN #285 (CNA politics) (20 October 1977): Death of a Governor-General.

Forward to USM politics: Remembrance Day.

Return to For All Nails.

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