For All Nails #60: The Spaced Service
by Noel Maurer
Carter Monaghan looked up expectantly from his desk at the two senior aides standing before him in his office. The office was neither pretentious nor royal. In fact, it was quite small. In the hands of other men, it would probably be cluttered, but Carter Monaghan had neither a cluttered mind nor a cluttered office.
"What was it you wanted to speak to me about?"
Monaghan cocked an eyebrow back at Ziegler. "Excuse me? Weren't you the one who told me that sending people into orbit would be a guaranteed vote winner?"
Ziegler was never afraid to speak his mind directly in front of his boss, but he was always reluctant to look him in the eye. Monaghan would have distrusted that in another Vandalian farm boy, but Micky was a Hebrew from Brooklyn City. That made it okay in Monaghan's book. Different folks and all that.
Micky stroked his beard. "I didn't say the space program was a dog, sir. Just the Space Service."
"I'm afraid you're losing me, Micky," replied the Governor-General of the Confederation of North America.
"It's like this, boss. When you decided to start the manned program, we naturally took over from the Army boys intercontinental missile plans." It wasn't really the Army, but neither Monaghan nor Ziegler had ever served in the military. They knew the distinctions, but didn't really care. "So, naturally, they gave it a military bent. Ranks, generals, all that. And that, sir, is a political dog."
Ziegler had talked about this with Tobias Garrity, Monaghan's Chief of Staff, who also happened to be the second man standing in front of Monaghan's desk holding a file folder stuffed with papers in front of his crotch. "I concur with Micky's analysis, Governor. We've got a big population of anti-militarists in this country, not all of whom vote for the PJP, and they hate the idea of a quasi-military space service."
Micky broke in. "'The crazed Monaghan militarizes the heavens,' or something like that."
Garrity, who was more phlegmatic than Ziegler -- and looked his boss in the eye -- nodded his concurrence. "Not to mention that the PJP itself will be less than thrilled about supporting another branch of the armed services. The 'Sweet Six' idea is brilliant, sir, but half its political impact is going to dissipate if we let this 'Space Service' keep going. The PJP will try to crucify us on the hustings."
Ziegler chimed in, "Even among the under-25's, the most pro-military won't care, but on the margin we'll lose votes. Or at least not gain as many."
Monaghan looked thoughtful. Of course, like most Vandalians, he always looked thoughtful. "Did you fellows not say that the Space Service might be just what we needed to improve the image of the military?"
Monaghan stared at his advisers. "It is a little bit late to be telling me this, fellows, since the speech has already been made."
Garrity shrugged. "We just got the polling data today."
Monaghan leaned forward slightly. "Well, what then do you suggest?"
Now Micky could look him in the eyes. "Junk the whole Space Service idea, boss. Make it the Space Agency. Completely civilian operation, no ranks, no uniforms, no silly salutes, none of that tomfoolery. Put the Sweet Six on detached service as government employees."
Garrity nodded. "It's a good idea, sir. Anyway, do we really want an image of incompetence attached to the space program before it even gets started?" FN2
Monaghan leaned back and steepled his fingers. "Gentlemen, you do realize that I cannot do this the day after I've just given a speech about the heroic venture our Space Service has undertaken."
Ziegler and Garrity glanced at each other. "Yeah, of course," said Ziegler, "But don't make an issue of it --- and then once you're re-elected make the change. You'll look less militaristic, and have something silly and inconsequential to 'give' away to the PJP in Grand Council logrolling."
Monaghan considered this. "Hmmm. Yes. A civilian Space Agency will also gain us propaganda points overseas, I'd imagine."
Micky added, "I hadn't considered that, boss, but it's true. I can say that at home the polls show that a Space Service with ranks and saluting comes across as way too, well, way too Mexican." Garrity nodded his concurrence.
"All right then, gentlemen, it's decided," said Monaghan. "Should the PJP get stroppy, we'll change the name of the Space Service to the North American Space Agency, remove it from the military chain of command and eliminate all military trappings. We will, however, wait to see if it should be necessary. As my pappy said, don't draw on the well water unless you need to, but always keep the pump oiled."
Garrity spoke up. "One more thing, sir. The Ministry of Science is the logical place to put the Space Agency, but, well, if the election doesn't go as well as we'd hope, we might have to give the PJP a ministry. In that case, we would be behooved to put the Space Agency there, regardless of the bureaucratic logic, in order to maximize our political gain -- and give us a head to chop off if things go wrong." FN3
Monaghan nodded again. "Oh my. That is a simply wicked idea, Toby. I assume you already have an executive order all ready."
"Of course, sir." Garrity reached into the file folder and removed a grapped bunch of dactyled papers. FN4 "Other than that we used 'Royal North American' instead of 'North American,' we seem to think alike, governor. The dates and ministry names are blank, of course." FN5
The Governor-General looked up at his chief of staff and head political advisor. "That's why I hired you two."
Forward toFAN #61: Picking Up Slack.
Forward to 5 February 1973: The Sweet Six.
Forward to Space Flight: A Visitor From Outer Space.
Forward to CNA Politics: The Briar Patch.
Return to For All Nails.