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For All Nails #108: Wheelchair General

by Johnny Pez

Léon Gambetta National Airpark
Orly, FN1 France
22 July 1974

It was standard practice for the comings and goings of General Eric von Gellmann, Ambassador from the German Empire, to remain unreported in the French press. In line with the fiction that France was an independent ally of the Empire, most press attention was focused on the Premier, some on the President, and none at all on the Ambassador. Consequently, the arrival of the Ambassador's private airmobile at Gambetta Airpark was drowned in silence. There were no crowds to greet (or protest) Gellmann as he was rolled down a ramp from the rear door of the Fleer jet. FN2

There was, however, a single woman waiting on the MacAdamed ground, a black umbrella raised above her head against the steady downpour. She was wearing a long navy jacket and matching short skirt, together with an unfashionable pair of doheny boots. FN3

"Good evening, Herr General," she greeted him as the wheelchair reached the bottom of the ramp.

"Fraulein Fanchon!" Gellmann exclaimed from beneath his own umbrella. "Whatever could bring you out on a soggy night like this?"

Yvette Fanchon was by nature quite lacking in a sense of humor, FN4 but over the years she had learned to tell when other people were making jokes. So she let Gellmann's question go unanswered, and instead said, "I hope you are recovering from your unfortunate episode." The nurse pushing the chair silently carried on wheeling Gellmann towards the terminal building. Fanchon fell in beside them.

"Rather better than Adolph has," Gellmann said, his voice now sounding tired. "I never quite liked him, you know. I always got the feeling that he was on the verge of going for my throat. But he was the best Chancellor the Empire has ever had. Admittedly, that isn't saying much, because the Empire has only had six Chancellors in its relatively brief existence, and one of them was Karl Bruning. Still, Adolph was a master of statecraft; I doubt whether anybody else could have held the Empire together as well as he did. And I doubt whether anybody else can hold the Empire together as well as he did."

"You're referring to recent events in Russia, are you not?" said Fanchon.

"There and elsewhere," said Gellmann. "It's not just Russia, you know. There are the New Granadans in South America (and make no mistake, Quito is just the beginning), the radical Islamists in Arabia and North Africa, FN5 the Australians in India. My generation saw the Empire conquer half the world; now your generation is going to see it all fall apart."

Fanchon began to feel pity for Gellmann in spite of herself. She certainly had no objection to the disintegration of the Empire; quite the reverse in fact. Nevertheless, it was sad to see a man she respected face the ruination of all he held dear. It came to her then with sudden, unbearable clarity that this was how her own great-grandfather must have felt after the disasters of the Hundred Day War: a lifetime's effort brought to nothing, a great nation humbled and left broken, a dream of glory replaced by a bleak reality.

They passed under the eaves of the terminal building, and furled their umbrellas. Gellmann shook off his melancholy and said, "But you haven't come here to listen to me babble about the fate of the Empire. You want to know what's been decided about your proposal regarding the Schupos."

Fanchon didn't trust herself to speak, so she only nodded.

Gellmann managed a slight smile. "You'll be happy to hear that the cabinet has agreed to the proposal. Believe it or not, Herr Steiner himself argued on its behalf."

This much Fanchon knew from her sources in Berlin. "Has the cabinet decided on a timetable for its implementation?"

They were passing through a part of the terminal that was off limits to the public. The walls were painted an appealing shade of lavender, and the floor was tiled in red and white. Outspeakers murmured about arrivals and departures. Gellmann's gray uniform seemed oddly harmonious with the surroundings. "You understand," he said, "that it would create the wrong impression if we were to announce the withdrawal so soon after our unfortunate reversal in Free Russia, especially with the elections FN6 so close."

"I understand," she said tonelessly. The trouble with being a politician was that Fanchon did understand. The Germany Party would be having a hard enough time keeping its coalition in power after the Treaty of Stockholm. Let them announce that they were also withdrawing five thousand uniformed men from France and they risked losing too many votes to the National Party.

"But the wheels are in motion," Gellmann assured her. "By the first week in September, the Schupos will start being reassigned to other areas of the Empire. By the end of the month, they'll all be gone."

"Assuming," she added, "that the Germany Party actually wins the upcoming elections."

"That's up to the citizens of the Inner Empire, of course," Gellmann conceded. "Even if the Democrats win, though, they're unlikely to oppose this policy. They've been complaining about the high tax rate for years, and it costs a lot of money to keep those policemen stationed in France."

The end of September, then. Not as bad as she had feared. And of course, the removal of the Schupos from France would be the ideal time for her to announce the next round of elections to the National Assembly. If they played their cards right, the Fanchonists might gain enough seats to allow them to dispense with another coalition partner.

"I am happy to hear it, Herr General," she said. They turned a corner, bringing them within view of the gateway to the Germans-only section of the terminal. "I fear I must leave you now, but allow me to offer you my best wishes for a speedy recovery."

"Thank you, Fraulein Fanchon," Gellmann replied. "And please allow me in turn to offer you the best of luck in the elections I've no doubt you'll soon be calling."

With a cheery wave, he left her standing there while the nurse wheeled him away.

Forward to FAN #109: Strap Your Hands 'Cross My Engines.

Forward to 26 July 1974: Do You Know the Way to Millinocket?

Forward to Yvette Fanchon: Where Are They Right Now?

Return to For All Nails.