For All Nails #118: Black September
by Noel Maurer
"Mercator to Moctezuma: Fuck You!" read the headline on the three-day-old copy of EUM Hoy. Sebastian Quezadas read the story with some interest. The Mapmaker had refused to be fired -- "I'm sorry, Mr. President," the paper quoted him as saying, "but circumstances force me to reject your dismissal notice at the present time." Impeachment articles against El Popo were introduced into the Assembly the next day. The paper seemed to think that they had a pretty good chance of passing: apparently almost the entire Congressional delegation from Guadalajara -- securely under Governor Rickover's thumb -- was going to vote for it, along with a big chunk of Mexico Central's delegation.
"Hey, Sebo! Gimme a hand here with these overlays, willya?" yelled Major Hermión Brady. FN1
"No problem, Herm. Gimme a second." Quezadas dropped the paper into the trash. He felt a momentary pang of guilt. Discipline might be lax in a reserve unit, but he was supposedly an officer. Hadda set an example for the troops, right? His pockets were buttoned ... but that newspaper had just screamed to be read, and there were more lieutenants than sergeants in his unit anyway. FN2
Brady was wrestling with a giant map of Cuba. Overlaid on the map was a large ripped block of transparent plastic. The block had been all marked out with supply routes and unit markings, but now half of it was missing. "What the fuck happened?" asked Quezadas.
Brady snorted. He was a short little guy, a rapidvend owner in real life. "Some brokepenny privado decided to load the map onto an open camioneta, y the wind ripped the plastic right off. We found it when the camioneta went descompuso on the Periférico." FN3
Quezadas blinked. "The camioneta broke down?"
"Yeah. You know how old those things are. Hey, move this over there, alright?" Quezadas went to the other end of the huge map, and helped Brady lift it off the ground. "Yeah, that's it. The Colonel wants it in the briefing room, don't let it rip any more." Segueing back into the conversation, Brady added, "Camioneta broke down. We were driving from Coyoacán up here, loaded up with stuff for the Simex. FN4 I'm in my little Jefferson, right behind the camioneta. Well, suddenly my windshield gets all foggy. I turn on the wipers, shit gets worse. So much for mist, right? No, wait, go left." Quezadas turned left, maneuvering the map through the cluttered command room on the bottom floor of the barracks building. "I think its my loke. I mean, it's a Jefferson, right? You expect strange oil leaks. So I'm watching the gauges when there's this BLAM y the camioneta starts pouring smoke. Damn bang was so loud I thought it was my engine!" Quezadas laughed at that.
Brady shrugged. "Here, let's put the damn thing up against the wall over here."
"Who was driving?" asked Quezadas.
Brady snorted. "Laos y Mahabir. Pair of idiotas. They know they're driving a twenty-year-old camioneta made by Jefferson Motors y they still think it's reasonable to do eighty on the locopista." FN5 Quezadas thought, but didn't ask, Then why didn't you stop 'em y order them to slow down? You were following them.
But this was a reserve unit -- incompetence was par for the course. No, that wasn't fair: incompetence was par for the course in this reserve unit. FN6
Quezadas looked at the map. "Fuck. Fuck. I suppose we'll have to fill in the friendly positions all over again?"
"That's right. Damn. Hey, Andría!" TCO Andría was a young college kid, the HHD's information maven. "You got a copy of the op order over there?" FN7
Andría looked up from where Lt. Malone had set him filing the endless amount of paperwork that needed to be filed before the Simex could get under way. "Yessir, I've got it right over on that desk, sir."
"Good," said Brady. He scratched his coco. "Drop that filing for a second. Get the op order, make us a list of all the units in and around LSA Carlos, y find out which of these goddamned supply routes is the main one." Brady was a good infantry officer, but his map-reading skills were not what they should be. He had other things to do, anyway, trying to get this bunch of brokepenny civilians into some semblance of military discipline before the Simex actually got rolling.
Andría nodded. "Se puede, sir. Tan facil, sir." Quezadas smiled. Yeah, college boy was right out of Basic. Been a long time since he'd heard those expressions! Well, he'd learn. When things really were too easy, there was no point in saying so, and when they weren't there was no return to faking it ...
Ernesto Nuche was a happy man. A very happy man, actually. The best story of his life had just been dropped in his lap. Right over his pancita and into his lap. Literally. A shaven-head courier had walked into the newsroom, beelined right for his desk, and just poosed the thick envelop into his lap.
Oh yeah, this was good stuff.
He flipped through the folder. Documents. Notarized copies. Birth certificates, job registries, escape warrants. Damn. God damn.
The return address was just one word: Coyoacán. He knew what that meant. This was reliable. And ... yes. The cash was right where he expected it to be. Not that it was even necessary, not with stuff this good.
God damn. Well, what the fuck was he waiting for? He leapt to his feet, hysterically waving the envelope, and shouted what every reporter secretly hoped he or she would get a chance to shout:
"STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!"
"Black Day for El Popo," read the headline on the Puerto Hancock News-Intelligencer, and it was one of the more sedate papers. Ever since the Henrytown Mercury-Reporter broke the story, all the papers, and more importantly, the vita had discussed nothing else besides the revelations about the President's ancestry.
"This is bad," said Andy Gendrop.
"Yes, this is very bad," added Osterman.
"Definitely not good," chimed in the President's press secretary, Joseph Arazi.
"Extremely bad, in fact," said a fourth member of the President's kitchen cabinet, Moctezuma's triple-carlos, Flavio Ávila. FN8 Flavio was a stocky man, about as blanco as they got, who wore a little hip goatee like the one Juan Bailleres had recently begun to sport.
Chewy tried not to roll his eyes. "Gentlemen ... y damas," he said, glancing over to Anita Stevens, the President's congressional liaison, who had been brought into this meeting, "We know that the stories about the President's ancestry aren't good. But let me ask a village idiot question here: from the point of view of the vote, why aren't they good?"
Stevens leaned forward in her chair. She had dressed demurely for this meeting. She knew that Enciso didn't trust her, and she knew that he was right not to. She really represented María del Rey, and Del Rey, despite her position as Mexico's representative to the world and second-in-line to the presidency, was the recognized leader of the country's nascent opposition party. But Stevens knew Congress, and she knew Del Rey, and short of inviting Del Rey herself to this meeting -- which would have been highly inappropriate -- they needed Stevens here.
"You've got three problems from these revelations. First y foremost, aqa big chunk of the electorate is not happy to discover that their President is a Negro." Ávila looked like he was about to interrupt, but she cut him off. "Half-Negro. Whatever. There are a lot of people happy to vote for a patriotic good Mexicano, but not for some evil Rainbow-hating Negro." She paused. "I'm just being blunt."
Stevens paused again to tick off a second finger. "Second, a lot of Assembly members now have an excuse to vote for impeachment, not because the President is black, but because he lied to the Mexican people about his ancestry."
Ávila interrupted. "El Popo didn't lie about it, he simply didn't ..."
Stevens cut him off. "Stop thinking like an abogado y start thinking like a político. It doesn't matter what he did. It does matter that now they can say that they're voting to impeach because the President lied to the Mexican people."
Gendrop broke in here. "Y it also draws attention away from the real issue, which is that the President wants to fire the Secretary of War."
"Right," said Stevens, clearly irritated at the interruption. That had been her third point. Which is why Andy had interrupted, more to keep the perrita off-balance than to give his opinion.
"It doesn't really matter, since the Assembly vote is a foregone conclusion, right, Flavio?" said the Chief of Staff.
"That's right," answered Ávila. "See, the Constitution doesn't really specify that the Assembly brings impeachment charges: it just mentions that the Senate tries them. The Assembly's right to do so is implicit. They want to keep that power, so the easiest thing for them to do right now is vote to impeach y dump things into the Senate's hands."
Osterman spoke. "The President has to address this directly, people. He's got to make it clear to the Senate that the Mexican people don't importa his ancestry."
Stevens snorted. "Only problem is they do."
"Have we commissioned a poll, yet?" asked Osterman.
"Not yet," admitted Chewy. "There is no way, you understand, that the President would authorize one."
Osterman and Gendrop both nodded. "Te explico," they said, almost simultaneously. Osterman continued that thought. "That's my job. I'll call George Montaño. He's discreet."
Arazi spoke up for the first time. "Will that be useful? I mean, c'mon, are people gonna answer honestly?"
Chewy answered the question. "Well, Montaño is a genius in designing poll questions. He'll figure something out. Anyway some information is always better than none." He sighed. "Plus, if the results say what I think they will, it'll give me some ammo in convincing the President that he needs to address this issue."
Osterman added, "Okay, then, we'll commission a poll."
Gendrop nodded, but also said, "I agree, but Stevens is right. We know what the poll is gonna say. How do we convince El Popo that he has to address the issue?"
"C'mon, Andy," Chewy insisted, "the President's not suicidal -- if an address to the nation is warranted, then he'll do it. It might not be the address we want, but it'll be an address. Beats the fucking silence."
Stevens broke in. "You might have a problem, you realize ... El Popo isn't exactly the most charasmatic man on the vita."
Chewy smiled. "No, not when he's a talking head he's not. But he does well with audiences. Joe?"
"Oh, I can arrange a good one, exactly the kind of forum the President likes. You sure you can get him to talk?"
"I don't really know," said Chewy. "This is El Popo. Look, let's wait until the poll results come in. Stevens, I'm counting on you to keep us abreast of Congressional thinking." That translated to keep us abreast of what Del Rey's congressional cronies are thinking, but they all knew that. "Andy, you talk to the President, y see what levers we can pull. Joe, meanwhile, you get the dirt that El Popo gave me about Mercator out to the press, y see about a forum for an address. What are you thinking, anyway?"
Osterman smiled. "Chewy, have I got the forum for you ..."
- Henrytown, Jefferson, USM
- 26 September 1974
Ernesto Nuche was a happy man. An even happier man than the last time, actually. Yet again a courier had waltzed by his desk and handed him an envelop full of everything he could have hoped for. Not just one, but two chingón stories in his hands in two days.
The return address read only "Chapultepec." Chapultepec-with-two-E's. Nuche knew what that meant. They weren't quite as old hands at this as the boys over in Coyoacán -- there was no money in the envelope -- but Nuche didn't care. This was good shit.
Huh, maybe they were more sophisticated than the fellas down south. FN9 He would have published that one without the cash, just as he was gonna publish this one without the cash.
Of course, the fellas down south wouldn't be happy about him running with this story. But Nuche knew that other reporters would be offered this scoop, and at least one of them would take it, so it might as well be him. Plus, who could resist the lure of fame? The man who broke not one, but two major political scandals within a week? God damn.
And what the fuck was he waiting for this time? This was every reporter's wet dream, to get two chances to stand up, wave your arms, and holler:
"STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!"
- Coyoacán, Chiapas, USM
- 30 September 1974
Vicente Mercator inhaled his puro. He was a real man, he could inhale. And it made him happy.
"So, Captain Reynolds, do these revelations affect our timetable?"
"The timetable, sir?" Ah, that was right. I must be getting old, thought the Secretary of War, Even though I am more virile than men half my age, I forgot that Captain Reynolds is not fully informed of the Plan I have mapped out. "You mean the upcoming elections?"
Mercator nodded, sagely. "Yes. Does this change anything?"
Reynolds looked at his notes, then up at the Secretary. "Probably not, sir, depending on how your testimony goes before Congress. If you stonewall, then you might be able to drag out the impeachment proceedings past the election, which is what most diputados want, anyway. Then Congress will recess, and throw the problem into the lap of the next Assembly."
"Good. Good. Leave us, would you please, captain?" The young captain nodded and stood up. After he left the room, Mercator turned back to the three other men gathered in this windowless office high up in the central tower of the Department of War complex. "Gentlemen? Thoughts?"
All the men in the room were blancos. All wore military uniforms. Two wore Army uniforms. The third was the highest ranking Naval officer in the Navy of the United States of Mexico.
The shorter Army officer, a stocky man who, unusually, grew his hair to visible length, spoke first. "Sir, I'm still not sure I understand why we passed on such compromising information to President Moctezuma. Its appearance in the newspapers does shorten our timetable."
The taller Army officer disagreed. "December is still more than enough time. The meeting is scheduled between Christmas and New Year's. And even if that meeting doesn't occur, we will be prepared for another opportunity."
Mercator interjected. "Are you sure that the meeting is our best chance? It is not that I am opposed to the death of innocents now if fewer will die in the future. I am, however, opposed to the unnecessary death of innocents."
The tall officer nodded. "I understand, sir, but any other time would be too risky. Waiting until the meeting actually minimizes collateral damage."
The Naval officer spoke up. "I don't know, sir. It still seems somewhat extreme."
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, Admiral," said the Secretary of War. He then turned his attention to the taller Army officer. "Colonel?"
The taller officer spoke again. "Meetings like this are rarely held in the middle of nowhere. The December reunion is as middle-of-nowhere as it gets. But we won't be able to get as close as we'd need to for alternate methods to work."
"Still, what about a demonstration?" asked the Admiral.
Mercator sighed. "As we have discussed before, a demonstration is simply another way of making a bluff, and our enemies will not respond to a bluff. It would be called, and in the long-run more would die. This way, we can strike at the head of the Pulpo. The tentacles, disorganized, can then be smitten one at a time."
The Admiral nodded. There was still doubt in his eyes. That was fine. Mercator knew that he would not betray them. Not without bringing down wrath upon himself and his family. Anyway, like many, the Admiral itched to test himself in battle. His opportunity would come, if not necessarily for the country of his birth.
The stocky major spoke up. "If Congress decides to move in December, things could get dicey. They might even decide to seat the incoming Congress earlier."
Mercator smiled. "They won't, Major. You see, you are assuming that I want to damage our president. I do not. We have hurt him, not killed him, and what does not kill you makes you stronger. When he is strong, he will be secure, and secure men can afford to wait."
"I'm afraid I do not understand, sir," said the Major, who had authority within the Department of War far in excess of that implied by his rank.
"My apologies, Major, but you are not need-to-know regarding this element of the Plan. Broadly speaking, a few years ago I realized that our new President was far more willful than I had imagined. He was a man with a Plan of his own. I contemplated breaking him, but then I realized that we could use that strength to serve a higher goal. His plan, in fact, dovetailed very nicely with our own. El Popo's strength will not protect our souls, gentlemen, but we can use it to protect the lives of our countrymen." The Mapmaker paused and took a drag off his cigar. "Watch the news channels. Viva Mexico." FN10
"Viva Mexico," they responded. The meeting was over.
Forward to FAN #119: The Defector.
Forward to 26 September 1974: Waste Management.
Forward to USM politics and Sebo Quezadas: October Surprise.
Return to For All Nails.