For All Nails #225: The Puppet Masters

by Johnny Pez

No. 10 Downing Street
London, Great Britain
11 November 1975

As soon as Sir Geoffrey Gold saw the look on his Foreign Secretary's face, he knew the news was bad. Still, for form's sake, he had to ask. "Have you received a reply from Colonel Elbittar?"

"From King Ferdinand," answered Eustace Sudbury.

That in itself was bad news. Ferdinand was the public face of the Elbittar regime. If the answer had been positive, it would have come from Elbittar himself. An answer from the King would inevitably be negative.

Sudbury handed Sir Geoffrey a folded piece of Foreign Office stationery. The Prime Minister found the response written in longhand. It was a thundering denunciation of the proposal coupled with a vow to carry on the struggle until final victory. Typical Dago bluster.

With a sigh, Sir Geoffrey said, "Nothing for it, then. We'll have to go ahead with the plan."

"Very well, Prime Minister," said Sudbury. "I'll pass the word along to General Cumberland." After a moment went by with no response from the other man, Sudbury added, "Was there anything else, Prime Minister?"

"Just thinking what a shame it is that the Wieners aren't on board anymore. They've much more practise at this sort of thing than we have."

San Pablo Penitentiary
Barcelona, Kingdom of New Granada
12 November 1975

Esteban Nuñez woke to the sound of his cell door being opened. Panic instantly cleared away the sleep from his mind. Five years in San Pablo had taught him that interruptions in the daily routine were almost always bad. His tongue probed the gap in his teeth that he had acquired during the last one.

The cell door had been opened by Decarlo, which was a moderately good sign. Decarlo was mean but not sadistic. If you didn't cross him, he generally left you alone. He was accompanied by another man that Nuñez didn't recognize. His uniform was not a guard's uniform, or a police uniform, or even a FANG uniform. It took a moment for Nuñez to place it as a British Army uniform. He knew that the British and their allies had invaded New Granada earlier in the year, and the prison was full of rumors that Barcelona had just fallen to them. Unless the limón was a prisoner himself (and Decarlo wasn't treating him like one), Nuñez took this as a sign that the rumors were true.

Decarlo's face was expressionless as usual as he said, "Man here wants to see you. Get up." Nuñez got up.

At a gesture from Decarlo, Nuñez left the cell and followed the two men down the echoing corridor out of the cellblock and into the administration area. The guard opened one of the doors and ushered Nuñez and the limón into a bare room that held only a table and two chairs.

"Knock if you want out, Colonel," Decarlo said to the limón, then closed the door on the two men. Evidently the limón either didn't think Nuñez would attack him, or was confident that he could handle any attack. As far as Nuñez was concerned, he was right either way.

The limón officer's face held no more expression than Decarlo's had. "Have a seat, Señor Nuñez," he said in accented Spanish, and Nuñez did. The limón took the seat opposite.

"Señor Nuñez, I am Colonel Waltham of the British Expeditionary Force. I'm a member of General Cumberland's civilian liaison team. You've been brought to our attention as a leading member of a banned political organization called the Venezuelan Freedom Party. Is that correct?"

Fear warred with hope in Nuñez's mind. He forced his voice to remain calm as he said, "That is correct, Colonel."

Waltham nodded once. "Señor Nuñez, I am here to inquire whether you would be willing to accept a position in a provisional Venezuelan government."

Just to make certain he had heard the man correctly, Nuñez said, "Provisional Venezuelan government?"

"That is correct, Señor Nuñez. It has been decided that the further prosecution of the war against the Elbittar regime requires the establishment of a responsible civil authority in those areas of New Granada under Allied occupation. To that end, provisional governments are being established in Barcelona and Guayaquil."

"And what will happen to these provisional governments once the Elbittar regime has been eliminated?" Nuñez asked.

"That will be determined by the subsequent course of events," said Waltham.

Nuñez understood well enough what Waltham was proposing. His "Venezuelan" government would be nothing more than window dressing, intended to pretty up the Allied occupation of New Granada. General Cumberland and his masters in the Allied governments would remain the real rulers of Venezuela and Quito -- and, once the war was won, of Cundinamarca as well.

Fine, Nuñez told himself. Let them be the real rulers of Venezuela. Better London than Bogotá. The important thing was to have a government in place that was independent of Cundinamarcan control. Later, if there was a later, they could worry about freeing themselves from the limones.

Forward to FAN #225: Rise Up, Gather Round.

Forward to 16 November 1975 (New Granada/American War): Now We All Did What We Could Do.

Forward to Great Britain: The Last Straw.

Return to For All Nails.

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