For All Nails #240: Closing Walls and Ticking Clocks
by Johnny Pez
. . . Our objectives in this conflict remain the same: effective international control of New Granada's weapons of mass destruction. Only in this way can we be certain of preventing a recurrence of the terrible destruction suffered on Bali last December. However, in the course of our recent advances through the eastern reaches of that nation, our forces have encountered a number of individuals and organisations seeking independence from the criminal Elbittar regime. It has never been our purpose to redraw any national boundaries in America. Nevertheless, if the criminal Elbittar regime remains intransigent, then military necessity will compel us, however reluctantly, to grant these requests . . . .
The British had been stepping up their air war in recent months, filling the skies over Bogotá with airmobiles and dropping endless tons of ordinance. They were concentrating their efforts on public buildings, with a flexible definition of 'public', so it had become necessary for New Granada's government, including the small but growing Royal Family, to disperse through the capital.
His Majesty Fernando III, King of New Granada, along with Her Majesty Queen Sophia and His Highness the Crown Prince Don Fernando, were currently residing in the Montevideo Hotel, twelve kilometers outside the city. They were accompanied by King Fernando's secretary Enrique Serrano, Don Fernando's nursemaid Felicia Albatal, and Queen Sophia's cat Lupe.
At 8:37am on the morning of 11 November, a nondescript loke entered the hotel grounds. An ordinary man in an ordinary suit carrying an ordinary briefcase got out of the passenger side and went up to knock on the door to room 109. The door opened to reveal Serrano, who nodded at the man and stood aside to allow him entry, then closed the door after him.
Within the room, the King and Queen were seated at a table eating breakfast, he in a field marshal's uniform, she in a conservative navy blue dress. The Crown Prince was asleep in his crib with Nurse Albatal nearby, while Lupe was investigating underneath a chair. The visitor bowed towards the King and Queen as he greeted them.
"Prime Minister," said Fernando, "what brings you here?"
"Your Majesties," Elbittar answered, "I wish to speak with you both in private."
Fernando and Sophia shared a glance, and both rose from the table. The visit from Elbittar was unusual enough to warrant the interruption. Fernando led the way through the door that connected 109 with 110, and the three seated themselves at the other room's table.
"First," said Elbittar, "I must ask if either of you are aware of Sir Geoffrey Gold's speech last night."
The couple exchanged another glance, and Fernando said, "I'm afraid we're rather isolated out here."
Elbittar nodded and reached into his briefcase to produce two grapped sets of papers, each a copy of Sir Geoffrey's speech in the original English and a Spanish translation (not that either of them needed a translation). It didn't take Fernando long to find the relevant section of the speech. He looked up at Elbittar and said, "Gold is threatening to partition New Granada unless we surrender."
Elbittar nodded again. "You both know Gold better than I, Her Majesty especially. Is this a bluff, or does he seriously intend to detach Venezuela from the Fatherland?"
"Sir Geoffrey doesn't believe in bluffing," said Sophia. "If he says he'll detach Venezuela, he will."
There was silence then as they all considered Sophia's words. It was some time before Fernando spoke up. "Prime Minister, I think that the time has come for us to give serious consideration to accepting Sir Geoffrey's terms. We have always known that our hope for victory was a slim one. It has been growing slimmer for months, until it has all but vanished. Before, we could always believe that even if we lost, New Granada could one day rise from the ashes of defeat and rebuild herself. If we continue the struggle now, defeat will mean not only our own fall, but the fall of New Granada as well. Once they have broken her, the British will never allow New Granada to become whole again."
If it were any other man telling Elbittar this, he would have ordered him out of his sight, and further ordered that he never return. Fernando, though, had earned the right to be heard. In the last nineteen months, he had somehow made himself the soul of the Fatherland.
The King surely knew what surrender would entail -- allowing New Granada to become an economic colony of Great Britain for the foreseeable future. Exile, at the very least, for Elbittar himself. Was this truly the only alternative to the dismemberment of the Fatherland?
Expressionlessly, Elbittar looked to the Queen. "Is this your recommendation as well, Your Majesty?"
"No, it is not," she said to his surprise. "Fernando doesn't know Gold as well as I do. Let him gain uncontested control of this country, and you'll never be rid of him. If there is any hope for New Granada, it lies in resistance, not surrender."
"Sophia," said Fernando, "if our cause is hopeless, surely it is better that we end the struggle now, rather than subject our people to any further suffering."
"Fernando," she answered, "I can't say for certain what Gold would do if he ever won this war, but I can say this: if we give in to him, he'll make us wish we hadn't. Every enemy he's overcome in the past has said so."
Now it was clearly the King's turn to ponder the Queen's words. Finally he sighed and said, "Very well, the answer will be no. I will compose a note to that effect for Señor Carranza FN1 to pass along to Sir Jeremy." FN2
Elbittar nodded a last time, rose from the table, and bowed to the King and Queen. "Your Majesty," he said to Fernando, "if you wish, I can bring you to the Foreign Office." FN3
"Thank you, Prime Minister," said the King, "I would be pleased to accompany you."
As the three returned to room 109, Elbittar found himself exchanging a glance with the Queen. There was steel hidden within her, he had long since learned. Whenever the King began to waver, Elbittar knew he could rely on her to remain true to the Fatherland.
A rare flash of humor entered Elbittar's heart. After the war, he thought to himself, I must thank Sir Geoffrey for sending her to us.
Forward to FAN #241: Games Without Frontiers.
Forward to 11 November 1975: The Puppet Masters.
Forward to Great Britain/New Granada/American War: Seven Nation Army.
Return to For All Nails.