For All Nails # 87: Springtime for Ferdi and Elbittar
by David Mix Barrington
Astrid Jackson was a woman in love with the Caribbean. This beachside bar, for example, where she was enjoying a rum punch as she watched the sun approach the ocean and the swimmers in the half-meter waves -- this was the life she loved. Her husband Felipe was out there somewhere, trying out some experimental contraption with a sail of polyamide cloth FN2 attached to a Hawaiian oloboard. He'd actually learned by now to keep it upright for several seconds at a time. Astrid preferred simple bodysurfing -- that, and enjoying the complexities of the people around her.
The bar contained a typical assortment of locals and white tourists, the latter numbering two German couples and a North American woman. What was she doing here? Wedding ring, probably recent, a honeymooner? If so she might well be stuck here for the time being -- airmobile flights had been suspended even to the New Granadan mainland as soon as fighting had started on Trinidad.
And how was that going, she wondered? The local papers were of course reporting an unbroken string of victories for the Fuerzas Armadas de Nueva Granada, part of what they called La Primavera del Rey. Could you have springtime in July? She supposed that European seasons didn't make much sense in the tropics at all.
In any case, there was no reason to doubt these particular victory claims. The United Empire seemed determined to stay out of the conflict, leaving only the small and rather amateur T&T army to face one of the finest militaries in the world. If she and Felipe were there, she'd be very interested in the strength of civilian resistance, the severity of the occupation, and so forth. But Felipe's superiors in the Mexican Army wanted him elsewhere-- they were skirting those orders by visiting New Granada at all. Their excuse was quite sincere -- it was time they took a break from Cuba.
Cuba was a mess if ever there was one -- four heavily armed factions FN3 each with at least one covert outside backer. It was natural that the Germans, Tories, and other powers would want a sympathetic government on the island. But why were the Mexicans (as she and Felipe had established without doubt) backing all four factions? There were divisions among Mexican policy-makers, to say the least, but Mercator's own personal dirty-tricks man Martin Falcone was delivering the aid to all four, naturally using four different identities. What was the old Mapmaker up to?
Astrid knew her Caribbean had been smoldering for some time, and now the fires in T&T, Cuba, and Boricua were threatening to send it up in flames entirely. And that was before considering the crisis involving her own country -- a German Chancellor shot by a Scandinavian-trained lunatic, a trigger-happy Kriegsmarine trying to get a bead on all six atomic-rocket submersibles (or was it seven or eight?) at the same time, and a German rocket base on Boricua with a mechanized brigade ready to repel boarders -- any boarders. She shuddered at the prospect of Charlotte Amelie being vaporized -- the first Caribbean town she'd seen, the harbor where she'd met her beloved ...
Back to the presumably stranded Tory bride. Probably of no professional interest, but what could be more natural than to strike up a conversation? Astrid finished her rum punch and walked over close enough to see what she was reading. Spanish? Some sort of legal history, it looked like. But she was a Tory -- she'd ordered a drink in English with a New Orleans accent. And a skirted swimdress on a pretty young woman? Tory. Of course, no need to advertise that she'd figured that out...
"Bon bini! FN4 Or should I say buenos tardes? Do you speak English?" She gestured at the book.
"Oh, hello! Yes, I speak English, I'm North American, at least I was, but I work in Mexico, and my husband's from Mexico, so maybe I'm Mexican, it's very confusing I guess." New Orleans, definitely, educated Italian ...
"Not at all -- I'm Scandinavian by birth and I suppose I'm North American by marriage. Astrid Jackson." She held out her hand to shake, in a slight parody of the formal North American style.
"Anna Di-- Anna Contreras. Almost forgot my new name! It's only been a couple of weeks. Pleased to meet you!"
"It's not fair, we should make the men change, no?" When speaking as Astrid, she tended to exaggerate the Scandinavian accent. If you tended to go around in disguise, it was always a good habit to give people a trait to remember in each persona, so they wouldn't think too hard about any similarities between different personas.
"Or we could all keep our own names, I guess, but that would be confusing for the children."
"So you're on your honeymoon? Congratulations! How long are you on Aruba?"
"That's sort of the problem, we don't know. We were supposed to leave last Saturday, but there aren't any flights."
"Ah, yes, the fighting. Did they tell you when they might start up again?"
"Nothing. They're polite, in English or Spanish, but they won't say a word. Suspension of operations for the duration of the emergency, they say. And even if they start flying to Caracas or somewhere, it looks like both my countries have put on economic sanctions. I wonder if we could get a flight to Guatemala or someplace, and then drive to Mexico?"
Unfortunately, Astrid thought, the Mexican influence on Guatemala had never extended to a modern highway system. "Hmm... I don't really know much about Guatemala." The lie came easily to a professional spy, of course. But she didn't want to know much about Guatemala, after a rather unpleasant business visit there three years ago...
"Maybe I should write to the King."
Astrid's surprise was unfeigned. "The King?"
"Yes, I know him, sort of. We didn't overlap at UNO, but he worked for my father for a while when he was a student. Nice boy, cute too. I wonder if he could help?"
A social connection to the King of New Granada? Suddenly this woman was of professional interest. The character of Fernando Rey was much on her mind lately, and on those of her superiors. It might be the key to how far New Granada planned to go, and more importantly how they planned to treat their conquests. (Aruba was doing pretty well, actually, but things had been very rough for the Surinamese just after the Global War.)
Time to make a decision. As the false Tory "Phil", Felipe preferred to avoid real Tories, as well as real Mexicans from whom he would have to hide his own Mexican origins. (Silly of him, as his acting skills were almost on the level of her own.) And she hadn't yet met Anna's Mexican husband. But this could be a real opportunity to learn something about the King, not to mention get to spend some time with nice people who weren't professional killers...
She decided. "You know, we might be able to help you out. You see, we've got a boat..."
- Privy Council Chamber, Royal Palace
- Bogotá, New Granada
- 3 July 1974
Admiral of the Fleet Nelson Soplador de la Bocina surveyed the chamber as the young King called the Privy Council to order. A new name and a new presiding officer, he thought, but mostly the same personnel as the military junta that had ruled New Granada for a year and a half. Not that the new additions weren't welcome -- the Maximum Leader (now Prime Minister) had it right. Running a country wasn't just a matter of suppressing opposition and guarding against foreign enemies. They needed the banker, the archbishop, and the lawyers that had now joined the soldiers and sailors.
Did they also need a boy King? Nelson had been quite skeptical at first, but seeing the boy in action he was beginning to come around. Somewhere, it seemed, he had learned how to run a meeting. He largely deferred to Elbittar and the other experts, but his occasional questions were deeply probing and had even caused him to rethink some positions. Almost as if he had been born to the job. Humph.
"Gentlemen, I think we're ready to begin. Prime Minister?"
"Thank you, Your Majesty. The first item on the agenda is the overall military situation, particularly the territorial expansion program. Admiral, would you please summarize the status of Phase One?"
It was Nelson's turn as Navy commander to act as chief of staff for the entire FANG. "Our forces are now in control of 90 percent of the land area of the island of Trinidad and 60 percent of Tobago. We estimate 600 armed resisters still in the field on Trinidad and 1200 on Tobago, but both groups are now surrounded and cut off from any outside supply. We can finish them within a week and announce our annexation of both islands."
The King cut in. "So the resisters no longer pose any threat to our forces?"
"Hardly, Your Majesty, as I said, since they are surrounded."
"In that case I suggest that the question of what to do next has become a political and a diplomatic as well as a military one. I'd like to take it up later in the meeting if we might."
What was this about? "Are you suggesting we should suspend operations before total victory has been achieved?"
"Not at all, Admiral. I merely point out that the manner in which we complete our victory has diplomatic and political implications, which I hope to discuss later. Please continue. What about Phase Two?"
"Er, Phase Two is proceeding according to plan, with a current scheduled implementation date of Saturday 20 July. Defense Minister De La Cruz is prepared to announce the resignation of President Aguinaga and the union of Quito with New Granada FN5. At that point our forces, with the help of key members of the Quito officer corps, will supervise the integration of their armed forces with ours."
The King again. "What about the Tortoise Islands?" FN6
"We announce to the Mexicans that we intend to continue their lease of the islands on identical terms."
Elbittar cut in, a bit condescendingly, Nelson thought. "I have many ambitions for our country, Your Majesty, but they do not as yet include any challenge to the Mexican Navy in the Pacific."
The King was not yet done. "Are we planning on any sort of a plebiscite in Quito on the annexation? I'm sorry, I suppose that's another political and diplomatic question, and we should wait -- do you think so, Prime Minister?"
"Quite so, Your Majesty. Admiral, if you could summarize the general military and naval situation in the Caribbean?"
"Gladly, Prime Minister. The North American and United Empire fleets are still in a defensive posture around their own islands in the Lesser Antilles. A quite strong defensive posture, if I may say so. The Mexican Navy has only observer ships out of port at the moment. There is considerable movement of both German and Scandinavian units, in a number of directions. The Scandinavian submersibles are attempting to evade German pursuit, and surface units are concentrating to threaten and defend the Virgin Islands and northwestern Boricua, respectively. We have no evidence of any actual firing between those two forces, but the situation is obviously quite unstable."
"Indeed." The Prime Minister sighed. "It's gratifying that they haven't set off any atomics yet, at any rate. What do we hear from Russia?"
That was a question for the Foreign Secretary, Dr. Carlos Quintana. "It's inconclusive, but the Scandinavians seem to be distancing themselves from their proxies for the most part. If we believe that they weren't behind the shooting of Markstein themselves, then the Novgorod faction's uprising may actually have been some sort of mistake to begin with. The problem for both the Germans and Scandinavians is that Novgorod is so far doing rather well on its own."
"Thank you, Foreign Secretary. Are there any new diplomatic events on this side of the world?"
"Not really, Prime Minister. Both Mexico and North America have imposed temporary economic sanctions on us. I defer to my colleague here to assess their effect."
"My Lord Chancellor?"
There really should be some limits to Elbittar's Anglophilia, Nelson thought. The banker Alvaro Espinosa was now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of all things. At least so far Nelson himself remained Admiral of the Fleet rather than First Sea Lord. What was Espinosa saying?
"...the Mexican trade policy toward us was already so hostile that the announced sanctions are purely cosmetic. On the other hand, the loss of aid and trade from the CNA is significant. I can't promise any economic growth in the next few quarters without it, though resources from the new territorial acquisitions will help us."
The economic wisdom of the expansion plan had been discussed to death enough times already. Elbittar seemed anxious to move on. "Any further developments in the domestic military situation? Admiral?"
"The situation is stable, small guerrilla actions only. We had ten killed and fifteen wounded last week, compared with thirty confirmed insurgent dead. We're planning a major strike on one of the Jeffersonista leaders in Antioquia province soon -- shall we keep the details of that on a need-to-know basis?" He automatically addressed this, a military question, to Elbittar, but the King didn't seem to mind.
"Certainly, Admiral, we look forward to the result. Now, Your Majesty, with your approval I think we may turn to the diplomatic and political issues you propose to raise."
"Thank you, Prime Minister. Gentlemen, let me first commend you on the discipline and professionalism shown by the FANG so far in Phase One, as I've read in these reports." Those reports didn't tell everything, Soplador de la Bocina knew, but they were accurate enough. The FANG soldier as a rule fought for pride -- in himself, his unit, and in the FANG. That made them far sharper instruments of their leaders' will than those who fought for bloodlust or plunder. Now what was the King saying? He seemed to be building into a full-fledged speech.
"-- for that reason we have the option of being merciful in victory. Our troops are just in their means, but it is we their leaders who must ensure that they are just in their ends. The Archbishop can tell us what constitutes a just war according to God's law. In Phase One we have acted to right a wrong nearly a century old and restore Trinidad and Tobago to our nation. In the next phases, however, we will be extending our rule to areas that have never before been under it. This must be justified in each case, and in each case the countries in question either suffer under corrupt and ineffective governments, or suffer the chaos of civil war. We are intervening for the benefit of the peoples of these countries, not merely for our own aggrandizement."
"We have shown as a nation that we are capable of integrating new peoples, of different races and speaking different languages, into a single state. My proposal is that we make this integration the central thrust of our expansion plan, both as a matter of policy and in our public stance. We should not declare an immediate annexation of Trinidad and Tobago, for example. We should grant amnesty to any supporters of the former government who will lay down their weapons, and allow them gradually to participate in the administration of the territory. As we bring the Prime Minister's proposed Popular Assemblies into being in Bogota and Caracas, so should we bring them into being in Puerta Hispana. FN7 As we implement Phase Two, we should announce an eventual referendum on the union of Quito with New Granada."
"I am happy to call myself an idealist, but there are very practical reasons for such a policy. By the time we reach Phase Five or Six, the attitudes toward us in Mexico and North America could be crucial to our success. We are strong, but we are not strong enough to face either northern power in war. As you know, I've lived in North America for many years. The Tories love elections, so much that they're embarking on a completely unnecessary one right now. If we show them that we welcome elections, that we are confident that the people's eventual verdict will be in our favor, they will not stand in our way."
"For all that Mexico has been our ally for many years, under President Moctezuma--"
"President Moctezuma is a whore." There was a long silence and a noticable turn of heads toward Elbittar. No question who was really in charge, Nelson thought. Had the Prime Minister decided that the King needed a reminder?
The King seemed to recover his aplomb. "Prime Minister?"
"I said that Moctezuma is a whore. He will commit any indecent act for money, or for the votes that money can buy. The trade policy the Chancellor just mentioned? Moctezuma falling on his knees before Maria del Rey and her purchased votes in the Mexican Senate." FN8
Another silence. The King seemed disinclined to resume his speech. All eyes were now on Elbittar, who might be winding up for a speech of his own. But the Prime Minister's face suddenly softened as he turned toward the King.
"On the other hand, I think His Majesty's general point is well taken."
Nelson exhaled, and noted that he had not been the only one holding his breath. Elbittar continued.
"Popular elections indeed have their place, and that place may soon be Trinidad or Quito. We will delay any announcement of the annexation of the islands. In the meantime, I would like the Intelligence Service to determine whether we can be assured of winning these elections."
"I agree with His Majesty that North American sentiment toward us is important, and that it can be manipulated. I am thinking that perhaps a royal visit to that nation is in order soon, to present our cause to the North American people as well as to its government. When I was last there I saw an interesting vitavision program, hosted by a football player ..."
Forward to FAN #88: City of Angels.
Forward to 4 July 1974: A Little Less Conversation.
Forward to New Granada: A Royal Audience.
Return to For All Nails.