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For All Nails #102: You Can't Always Get What You Want

by Johnny Pez

Stockholm, Sweden, Kingdom of Scandinavia
13 July 1974

Baron Einar Torvald was beginning to understand why his predecessor had been so fond of marihuana. As Foreign Minister in the Federal Cabinet, his main job was trying to put out the fires started by the Chancellor, Grev Rasmus von Moltke, and by His Majesty Christian Gustav II. He could have used some form of relief from the endless tensions that resulted.

For nearly two years, the Grev and His Majesty had pursued a secret war against the German Empire, fearful that the Germans would try to use their superior numbers and atomic weapons to crush the Kingdom of Scandinavia. Supporting terrorist cells and subversive groups within the German client states, they had tried to keep the Empire off balance while they spent reckless amounts of money on an arsenal of atomic weapons more appropriate to a country like the CNA than to a small nation like Scandinavia. Torvald was uncomfortably aware that the opening salvo of their war had been the arrest, torture and execution of his predecessor, Baron Ragnar Dahlgren. At the time, Torvald had believed that Dahlgren's fate had been a just one, meted out to a man who had betrayed his King and Fatherland. Two years spent trying to do Dahlgren's job had made it clear to him that Dahlgren had been guilty of nothing worse than attempting to gain some favorable trade terms from the Germans. Needless to say, it was rather nerve-wracking to know that you might at any time be hauled off to the Kastellet by some paranoid secret policeman simply for meeting with a German businessman.

The climax of His Majesty's undeclared war had come fifteen days before, when one of the Foreign Intelligence Service's "assets" had assassinated the German Chancellor, and touched off a Scandinavian-backed coup in the Free Russian Republic. Now, instead of trying to calm the resulting troubled waters, His Majesty seemed intent on provoking a military confrontation with the Germans in Free Russia. The shadow war had started as a means to an end, a holding action until the Kingdom could obtain its own atomic deterrent. And now that they had their deterrent, it seemed that the shadow war had become an end in itself.

Torvald's musings were interrupted by the arrival of the German delegation in the conference room. He wondered whether they found the surroundings as oppressive as he did. For reasons known only to himself, His Majesty had arranged for the peace conference to be held in the old Swedish Royal Palace. It was here that the Swedish royal family, the Vasas, had come to their sorry end eighty years before in a final spasm of madness and bloodshed. FN1 Living in this gloomy old pile, Torvald didn't doubt, had helped push poor Gustav Adolf over the edge. It was not reassuring to know that His Majesty Christian Gustav spent so much of his time here.

The Germans took their places at the long, long table, between the delegations from the Free Russian Republic and the Republic of Minsk, and once more Torvald found himself sitting opposite Exterior Minister Joshua Merkel. Merkel was an ordinary-looking man in his late forties with a bare scalp and a neat mustache. He gave Torvald a mild look and said in German, "Herr Baron, we have prepared a response to your proposal."

Torvald held his breath. The settlement terms had been dictated by His Majesty himself: formal recognition of the newly-established Commercial Republic of Novgorod-Petrograd, withdrawal of the Commercial Republic from the Associated Russian Republics, and recognition of the Commercial Republic's mutual defense treaty with the Kingdom of Scandinavia.

Merkel continued. "While we find the proposed settlement terms odious in the extreme, and all too consistent with the duplicity and double-dealing which have lately become the hallmark of the Kingdom of Scandinavia, we are nevertheless compelled by circumstances to accept the proposed settlement."

Torvald felt a wild exhilaration. They had done it! Defied the might of the German Empire, nobbled St. Petersburg, and extended the sway of Scandinavia within the Baltic littoral! Was it possible, he wondered, that von Moltke and His Majesty knew what they were doing after all?

"By the way," Merkel added, and Torvald's exhilaration was instantly replaced by foreboding. "On an entirely separate topic, you'll be interested to know that the Imperial Diet has just passed a new revision of the Law on Trade and Tariffs. I happen to have a copy with me, and as some of the revised terms involve trade relations between Scandinavia and the Zollverein, I thought you might like to have a look." Merkel placed a bound volume on the table between them, then stood up, followed by the other delegations from the German Empire and the Associated Russian Republics. Torvald followed suit, as did the other delegates from the Scandinavian side.

"As always, Herr Baron," said Merkel, "it has been a pleasure. May God bless you all and grant you peaceful nights."

The opposing delegation marched away from the table in an unwavering line. Torvald looked down at the bound volume with trepidation, knowing as he did that nearly eighty percent of Scandinavia's foreign trade was with members of the Zollverein.

He was not looking forward to reading it.

Forward to FAN #103: Matchmaker, Matchmaker.

Forward to 15 July 1974: My Father Was a Gambler Down in Georgia.

Forward to Germany: And I'll Cry If I Want To.

Forward to Scandinavia: Happy New Year!

Return to For All Nails.