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For All Nails #66A: In the Muck

by Johnny Pez

Ciudad Tómas Jefferson, Boricua FN1
19 March 1973

Ezra Bakersfield, Minister for Foreign Affairs to Governor-General Carter Monaghan, was glad to have left his go-to-meeting shoes back in Burgoyne. Locomobiles were rare in Boricua, and the streets of Ciudad Tómas Jefferson gave plentiful evidence of the large number of horse-drawn carts that transited the town.

The negotiations between the Confederation of North America, the German Empire, the United States of Mexico and the Jeffersonist Republic of Boricua were being held, appropriately enough, in the Ambassador Hotel, across the Plaza de San José from the North American Consulate. The name was no coincidence, for the hotel (and in particular its associated pub) had long served as an unofficial recreation spot for the consular staff, and the hotel's name had eventually come to reflect it.

Within the mercifully cool and shady confines of the Ambassador, Bakersfield sat at a round table with his various counterparts. He was flanked on his left by Exterior Minister Joshua Merkel of the German Empire, and on his right by Secretary of State Benedict Denison of the USM, while Foreign Commissioner Vachon Mola of Boricua faced him from the far side of the table. Behind each man sat or stood aides, assistants, and translators.

Merkel had become Exterior Minister in the Markstein government four years before, after a financial scandal had forced his predecessor's resignation, and Bakersfield had met him on several previous occasions. Bakersfield found the German to be sensible and remarkably straightforward for a diplomat. Chancellor Markstein apparently placed a good deal of trust in Merkel's judgment, for the Exterior Minister rarely had to refer back to Berlin for guidance.

Denison had been appointed to his position twelve months before by President Moctezuma. As was often the case in Mercator's Mexico, it was difficult to tell whether Denison was the President's man or the War Secretary's. The rumored power struggle taking place between Moctezuma and Mercator made Denison's status even murkier. Bakersfield had met Denison twice before, and found him to be unlike Merkel in almost every way -- oblique, unctuous, and obstructive. Whoever he reported to in Mexico City evidently kept Denison on a short leash, since he refused to consider even the most trifling proposals until he got clear word from higher up.

Bakersfield had never heard of Mola before flying in from Burgoyne for these talks. The Boricuan government tended to have an unusually high turnover rate among its officials. They appeared out of nowhere, gave interviews to foreign journalists where they spouted the current official government positions, then after a few weeks or months vanished back into nonexistence again. Bakersfield couldn't help recalling a sketch he had seen on the MacAnuff show two weeks before, where a North American official met with a series of Boricuans who were all obviously the same man wearing a variety of easily-penetrated disguises. He didn't think Mola was the previous Foreign Commissioner, Maximilian Lozano, dressed up in a wig and short beard, but in Boricua you could never be absolutely certain.

The formal discussions were conducted in Spanish, a language in which all the principal participants were fluent. As host, it was Mola's task to open their meetings. Today he did so, as he always did, with a short speech denouncing the CNA's attack on the Moca installation. This morning Mola chose to dwell on the various atrocities supposedly committed by the North Americans against Boricuan civilians. Merkel let show his disdain for Mola's theatrics, and Denison nodded vacuously, while Bakersfield himself remained expressionless. Reaching the end of his tirade, Mola concluded, "Why should we allow these bandits of tyranny to go free, when the blood of thousands of innocents stains their hands?"

Bakersfield had noticed that despite their venomous bile, Mola's rants nevertheless always led into a discussion of the topic on that day's agenda. It was a peculiar way of conducting negotiations, but, God help him, he was getting used to it. In this case, Mola was opening the discussion of the return of captured North American troops to the CNA.

"I deny these unfounded accusations regarding the behavior of the Confederation's service personnel," Bakersfield responded without heat. "Our men comported themselves in strict adherence to the rules of war. I further note that Exterior Minister Merkel makes no such accusations, despite his government's open support for the Jeffersonist Republic, and despite the fact that most of the action that occurred during the incident took place between the Empire's troops and our own. By the terms of the Paris Accords FN2, to which the government of the Jeffersonist Republic is a signatory, captured combatants are to be returned to their nation of origin upon the cessation of hostilities between their government and that of their captors. Since hostilities between the Confederation and the Jeffersonist Republic have ceased, the Jeffersonist Republic is required by the terms of the Accords to return all captured combatants to the Confederation at the earliest opportunity."

"The Paris Accords were intended to cover the actions of governments between which a formal declaration of war had been declared," Mola responded. "The CNA's illegal and barbarous attack upon the liberty-loving people of Boricua was neither preceded by a declaration of war nor followed by a formal cessation of hostilities. That being the case, the Jeffersonist Republic feels fully justified in regarding these men as criminals engaged in a criminal enterprise, and therefore not entitled to any of the protections mandated by the Paris Accords."

Bakersfield said, "Is it the intention of your government to place these men on trial, then? If so, the Confederation will require that each man be permitted access to his chosen legal counsel, and that the Boricuan code of criminal justice be scrupulously observed at all times."

Bakersfield had yet to see Mola smile, but the Foreign Commissioner came close as he said, "The Boricuan code of criminal justice allows the Liberty Guards a wide degree of latitude concerning the proper treatment of enemies of the state, including their access to legal counsel."

Merkel spoke up. "As we have not yet come to a conclusion regarding the applicability of the Paris Accords to the present situation, I feel it would be premature to let questions of legal proceedings distract us. I am not convinced that Foreign Commissioner Mola's narrow interpretation of the Paris Accords is one that the Imperial German government would support. The Accords do not specifically require that a formal declaration of war exist between two governments before its provisions may come into effect."

It wasn't hard for Bakersfield to understand why Merkel should choose to side with the CNA rather than the Jeffersonistas regarding the status of the imprisoned troops. Now that the CNA had implicitly accepted the existence of the German missile base in Boricua, it was in the Empire's interest to stabilize relations between the North Americans and the Boricuans as quickly as possible. The Germans had everything they wanted; the longer the status of the North American troops remained unresolved, the greater the chance that the Boricuans might goad the CNA into acting precipitately to redress the situation.

Mola's expression of not-quite-joy now shifted to one of not-quite-annoyance. "Naturally the government of the Jeffersonist Republic will adhere to the generally recognized standards of international law. If it is the consensus of the world's nations that the Moca conflict does indeed fall within the scope of the Paris Accords, the government of, by and for the people of Boricua will of course accept that judgment."

Bakersfield didn't heave a sigh of relief, but he wanted to. It would mean more days spent mucking about in Boricua, listening to Mola's endless inflammatory rhetoric, but he was reasonably certain that the release of the imprisoned men could be effected here at the negotiating table. Then there would be one less problem facing the Confederation, the Governor-General, and, especially, Ezra Bakersfield.

Forward to FAN #66B (Caribbean): Diplomacy.

Forward to 19 March 1973: Victoria's Secret (Part 4).

Return to For All Nails.