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For All Nails #100:  How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Near Santerem [1]
Recency of Grao Para
4 August 1974

Carmen Valenzuela had never thought of herself as 
a scientist.  Oh, a medical student had to _learn_ lots
of science, of course, to have some idea how things
worked.  And, she supposed, you had to do science to 
learn science.

But at the moment, she mused as she counted the microbes
in the area of Ronaldo's blood in the field of her microscope,
she was acting as a scientist.  As a medical woman, she was
finished with Ronaldo -- he had presented three weeks ago with
a textbook case of LaSalle's Anemia [2], she had given him 
three weekly doses of the blue stuff [3], and his symptoms had
now gone away.  What, then, was the point of counting his
microbes?  (The stolid rubber tapper himself, it appeared, 
didn't see any point to it, but like most of his neighbors he 
was willing to cut the crazy white women some slack given their 
record of medical success.)

There _was_ an obvious point to it, even to her practical medical mind.  
It was clear to any reader of Darwin that when you used a general 
antimicrobial to kill millions of little creatures, you were 
_selecting_ for the one or two of those creatures that were immune 
to whatever you used.  And if they reproduced enough, what you had 
in _practical_ terms was a patient with LaSalle's Anemia on whom 
the blue stuff didn't work.  And if the pink stuff didn't work 
either...

The Danielloises, like their legendary founder [4], were nothing if 
not methodical and scientific.  So Carmen was documenting the process
of microbial evolution in the patient, watching to see whether his
own antimicrobial defenses would be able to mop up the weakened
enemy before enough blue-resistant ones could breed.  The study would
give Carmen a head start on some of her second-year classes back in
Montreal in the fall.  More importantly, once published in a medical
journal it could help doctors and patients throughout the world.

This wasn't much of a summer _vacation_, she thought, but she was
certainly getting to do some work that made a difference.  In her first
week she'd immediately been assigned to help some Mason Program people
find a source of contamination in the water system their predecessors
had set up twenty years before.  A civilized country would have sent
government water inspectors or something, she supposed.  But the Regency's
presence in Santarem consisted of the police garrison, who collected 
occasional taxes in the intervals between shakedowns and gang rapes.
Apparently, though, they considered the Danielloises themselves completely
off limits.  Some said that the superstitious Regent feared divine 
retribution for any interference with nuns -- others thought that his
saner advisors recognized the benefits of at least some international 
relief work.  There were New Day people in Santarem as well, playing
whatever small part they could in helping the people.  She remembered
jokes from her Mexican childhood about the _loco_ Tory leader Dick Mason.
They didn't seem funny at all from the middle of Grao Para.

The worst thing, of course, was that impoverished, mildly terrorized 
Santarem was in fact the garden spot of the entire country [5].  She
couldn't herself buy the story about the Regent's respect for nuns -- if 
even a tiny fraction of the rumors were true about the "camps" near Grao
Para's border with Brazil, the leader's soul would have far weightier
sins on it.  Not to mention the whispers about "medical research"!  Carmen
had seen some very unpleasant things in her service on the Rocky Mountain
frontier, but these things made her blood run cold.

Sister Angelique and the other three doctors had immediately recognized
that Carmen's years as an army medic were far more useful to them than
her year of actual medical school.  She found herself effectively in charge
of the walk-in clinic, of the two dozen local trainees, and essentially of
nearly any kind of treatment that didn't need an M.D. to perform.  She'd
picked up the local Portuguese-Spanish-_indigena_ creole pretty well, without
much help from the standard Portuguese grammar she'd brought.  Somewhere
she'd heard the phrase "from each according to her ability" -- was it Ste.
Danielle?  Sounds like something the old girl would have come up with while
working herself to death...

The unmistakable sound of a gyropter interrupted her observations.  She
wrote down the last figure, quickly straightened out the lab table, and
stepped outside.  The Regent's boys didn't strike her as very likely to
keep a gyropter operational for very long.  Which meant that this was 
someone else, didn't it?  Well, there was one person in this compound with
extensive experience talking to Spanish-speaking soldiers, and that was her.
From each according to her ability, indeed.

As the gyropter swooped over the cluster of corrugated-metal buildings,
a rope emerged from the bottom, followed by a man sliding down it.  A 
brave man, Carmen thought, since he was offering a free shot to any armed 
enemies on the ground.  He hit the dirt with a roll and came up with his
rapid-action combat rifle at the ready.  Jungle _camouflage_ [5a] uniform with 
dangling plants, light pack, no insignia to be seen... The gyropter moved 
away.  Carmen strode purposefully toward the man and addressed him in 
Spanish.

"Nice of you to drop in, soldier!  Something we can do for you?"

"You in charge here?"

"Nah, Sister Angelique's the C.O. but my Spanish is better.  You're
FANG [6], right?"

"Corporal Pedro Rahim, 13th Cazadores [7].  I have orders to secure this
facility."  They were now close enough to stop shouting.  Carmen noticed
various Danielloises and locals peering out of the doors of the buildings.
She also noticed at least four more men dressed like Rahim becoming visible
out of the jungle at the perimeter of the compound.  Any hypothetical armed
enemies would not have lasted long after picking off the man on the rope, 
not that it would have helped _him_ very much.

"Well, we can deal with that, I suppose, given our terms.  You got
your rules of engagement, we got ours."

Rahim ran his eyes up and down her gray robes.  "You don't talk like a
nun."

"I'm not."  She held out a hand.  "Medic First Class Carmen Valenzuela,
United States Army, Retired [8].  Nice to meet you, Corporal."

"Likewise.  So you want to dictate terms?"

"We treat anybody, from either side, in the order _we_ choose for medical
reasons.  You can look around and make sure there's no weapons here, but
as long as that thing's up this place has to be demilitarized."  She
pointed at the blue and gray sigil on the roof of the largest building,
identifying a hospital to anyone in the air.

"And if we don't like your terms?"

"We don't cooperate."

"And if we make you cooperate?"

"You a churchgoing man, Corporal?"

"Not in a while."

"Well, let me tell you something.  Sister Angelique's a good doctor
and a good nun, but you know the only way to _really_ get ahead in
_this_ outfit is to become a martyr.  I wouldn't fuck with her if _I_
were you."

The _cazador_'s face broke into a broad smile.  "I think we can work
something out.  I don't know how much fighting there'll be in the town,
but we might be really glad to have you guys up and running.  On your
terms."

"So you're 'securing' the town too?  And the rest of the country, I
suppose?"

"Something like that.  The big action's going to be in Belem, assuming
the fat bugfuck bastard [9] is there.  We grab him up, his so-called 
army is gonna fold pretty fast.  Why, you got a problem with that?"

"Officially, our order is completely neutral and apolitical.  Personally,
I think this country could use some new management."

"That's the idea.  Say, you said you weren't a nun?"

"That's right."

"Do you get any off-duty time?  I mean, after we've secured the town,
I'd like to buy you a beer, or something..."

"Corporal, I think I'd enjoy drinking a beer with you even if I _were_
a nun.  Yes, I get some off-duty time, and I can wear something besides
this uniform.  If you can manage not to get yourself killed, it's a date."

From Santarem came the sound of more gyropters and scattered small-arms
fire.  Summer vacation?  There were going to be real wounded here soon,
the only question was how many.  Time to get triage and pre-op ready,
the sooner the better.  She gave the _cazador_ a last smile and started
toward her work.

Notes:

[1] Same name as the town on the Amazon in OTL Brazil.  Grao Para
    consists of the lower Amazon basin, including the OTL state of
    Para, and has its capital in Belem.  In practice it is entirely
    independent of the FANTL's smaller nation of Brazil, but the 
    legal situation is ambiguous and clearly about to get more so.

[2] Discovered and isolated in 1957 by Dr. Eriq LaSalle, a Mason 
    Program volunteer in the separate nation of Rio Negro further up 
    the Amazon.  Currently the leading trauma surgeon in Michigan 
    City, he is called "Dr." only because of his unusual double 
    certification in medicine and surgery (surgeons, as in the OTL 
    UK, are called "Mr.").  The origin of the spelling of his first 
    name is obscure.

[3] One of two general antimicrobial agents in common field use in the
    FANTL's tropics -- the other is known as "the pink stuff".  Do I 
    look like a pharmacist?

[4] Soeur Marie-Madeleine, a/k/a Ste. Danielle Richard, see FAN #62.

[5] Carmen has not seen the OTL film _Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
    Kid_ -- the reference ("Bolivia!") is accidental.

[5a] Camouflage is a recent development in the FANTL, pioneered by the
    _cazadores_ and later adopted by the Mexicans.  The FANG have often
    served as a testbed for Mexican military innovations.

[6] Fuerzas Armadas de Nueva Granada, of course.  Carmen is witnessing
    part of Phase Three of the territorial expansion plan discussed by 
    the New Granadan Privy Council in FAN #87.

[7] Like the OTL USA's Delta Force, New Granada's elite special
    operations unit is not big on ranks, saluting, etc. -- it is
    not at all unusual for a _cazador_ corporal to be given huge
    responsibility.

[8] The tendency of FANTL Mexicans to refer to their country as "the
    United States" can be confusing to OTL readers.  Carmen's use of 
    "retired" is facetious, as she simply completed her normal enlistment.

[9] Rahim is referring to Regent Cardoso, who has a host of mental 
    health issues.  As in OTL, "bugfuck" is English military slang for 
    "completely and homicidally insane" -- Pedro inserted the English
    word into his otherwise Spanish conversation.


Dave MB