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For All Nails #126: Cold As Ice

by Mike Keating

Niagara Arena FN1
Seats 232 and 233, level 2, section C
Black Rock, New York, N.C., CNA
28 November 1974

Harold Pickett and John Hanson sat watching a Black Rock Swords game. "God Save The King" had just been finished by opera star Enrico Palazzo, and the game had begun.

"So, it's over for you here," Hanson said.

"Unfortunately, yes. I don't know what I'll do now. My superior seems to be in the process of releasing a lot of Mercator's allies, and others are mysteriously leaving Mexico City. Some say leaving the USM altogether. But my boss isn't in Mercator's camp now." Pickett sighed. He had gotten the clandestine note from Winston that the switch to El Popo's side hadn't quite been by choice. It hadn't gone further than that. But Pickett knew his chances with the War Department's Intelligence section were slim as Winston shelved Operation Chaos. Freelance work looked attractive, though.

Hanson wondered if they should be discussing such matters in public, but the arena was a loud place. It was doubtful anyone else could hear them. Even so, Hanson and Allen both kept looking around to make sure no one was listening to them (the news of Mercator funding the Brotherhood had not sat well with the CNA media). Several of the seats around them were unoccupied, and the people immediately behind them were engaged in a bizarre, loud debate over whether the Swords could defeat their combined weight in small, yapping Mexican dogs. Who came up with that? Hanson thought. Still, they spoke in hushed tones.

"You are always welcome with the Brotherhood. You brought a few million pounds into our movement in 2 years. Other army clubs across the land benefited too. Consider moving to this city. I know you're fond of the chicken." That was an understatement; Hanson thought the man he knew as Edward Allen was addicted to it. Maybe it was just the only Confederation food he liked.

Indeed, Allen responded by taking a thigh from the 15-piece bucket of Black Rock chicken he had insisted they buy. FN2 Hanson helped himself to a leg and saw there were still eight pieces left. Just then, the crowd rose and yelled as one as Pierre Gilbert took a pass from Robert Rennie, found Martin Richards near the net, and got the puck directly to him before being leveled. Richards slammed it home and the Swords were up 1-0 with 27:58 left in the first.

Hanson and Allen and both had huge smiles. The former had been a lifelong skaters FN3 fan and wanted to see the game kept after the Revolution succeeded. The latter had never seen the game before coming to the CNA, but decided he liked it. Before the fans could sit back down, Raymond Robb rammed directly into Neal Cammson. The Boston Johnnies were tough, but if you took away Cammson they would be easier. Cammson lost the puck, and Gilbert had it again. He stopped short of the blue line and shot. But Orrton Roberts blocked it and took it back up-ice. A huge scrum began near the green line, and following the action became tough for a while with all the checking.

18:34 left in the 2nd
Swords 17, Johnnies 12

"I have to go home after tonight. I may be back, but it won't be representing the USM. If I am back, it'll be for good. I'll be more able to contribute here as a private citizen." Allen/Pickett paused a second, so he could think about the enormity of that statement. "But first I have to put some affairs in order. You don't just switch the country you live in overnight."

Hanson nodded as they rose to cheer another Rennie goal, his 3rd of the night. Black Rock's starting frontmen FN4 were having a great game, combining for 10 points so far. Allen finished off a breast and went to work on a wing. Hanson debated whether he wanted another piece yet, and settled on the last breast. He scratched the beard he had grown so he wouldn't be recognized, although he made sure no one outside the Brotherhood knew what he looked like. "Your money has enabled us to buy much for the Revolution. Guns, ammunition, explosives." FN5 This last was in a very, very hushed voice. "We are working on something big. If you want in on it, you will know where to reach us."

7:09 left in the 2nd
Swords 21, Johnnies 18

Richards took the puck from the Swords' Scandinavian wonder Magnus Thorvaldsson at center ice over the Swords' symbol FN6 and skated past Johnnies being checked out of the way for him. As he put it in for a 2-point goal, Allen tossed the last chicken bone into the bucket.

Hanson made an offer: "If you get back by then, I have tickets to the North City game on the 25th."

"Oh, the famous Hanson brothers!" Both said this at once, then looked at each other and laughed. Allen went on, "They are something. They're really good. If you looked up violence in the lexicon..." FN7

"... you would find their picture, yes. I always feel sorry for their opponents, especially when it's us. And they give me a bad name, since I'm a Hanson too." Allen didn't reply; it would be impossible to hear over the interspeak FN8 announcing the goal and assists.

Hanson, for his part, started to glance at the copy of the Black Rock Courier he had bought for the intermissions. That was the main problem with skaters; the intermissions were so boring. Football at least had a marching band and sometimes some prize giveaways. The main story dealt with the mayor's dealings with the steel producers and getting the Pie Works up and running. They were saying Ciepelski was looking into a run for head of the N.C. Liberal Party. He dragged his attention back to the game in time to catch a thunderous check.

Final score: Swords 30, Johnnies 28

Allen and Hanson walked out of the arena. "I'll be leaving North America tonight. Thanks for the game; I enjoyed it. This game is fascinating to me. I don't get why it isn't taking off in the rest of the world."

"No problem, my friend. I hear of games on frozen lakes and ponds in Alaska. There are a few Alaskans in our minor leagues. They're playing in Scandinavia and some of the Russian nations. But the talent isn't usually as high because they haven't had it as long." The two men shook hands. "Farewell, my friend. Even if fate doesn't bring us back together, it's been worth it," closed Hanson.

Forward to FAN #127: "Local Hero Comes Home".

Forward to 29 November 1974 (Harold Pickett): Undercover of the Night.

Return to For All Nails.