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For All Nails #111d: Kill All the Lawyers

Mexico City, C.D., USM
14 September 1974

 Vincent Mercator and Immanuel Moctezuma had not been alone in the
same room since his nomination. Both had cocos and fake smiles. [1]
The resemblance ended there. Mercator was short, slim, and
pale-skinned. He wore a razor-thin mustache across the bottom of his
upper lip and a beige Army working uniform of the rest of his body.
[2] He was pushing 80, but looked younger, even if he didn't feel any
younger. Moctezuma wore a rumpled brown suit, shirt open at the neck,
and looked like nothing so much as a giant ham-hock: huge and muscled
and fighting a continual battle of the bulge. Moctezuma's much-smashed
nose smeared over his face, a sharp contrast to Mercator's aquiline
nariz. El Popo was 58 years old.  Like the Mapmaker, the President of
the United States would have looked much younger than his real age
were it not for an air of weariness about him.

 The weariness was no deep psychological trait --- it was because
President Moctezuma was lucky if he got four full hours of sleep

 Moctezuma didn't rise. "Come in, Colonel." The Secretary of War had
never taken the opportunity to pump up his rank. He didn't need to. As
head of the War Department, he came in second to only the President in
the chain of command. And, of course, between 1954 and 1965 he had
officially been President.

 "Mr. President." Mercator smiled slightly. His eyes looked happy.

 Moctezuma, on the other hand, was not a happy man. "You know what
this is about." It wasn't a question.

 "I think I might, Mr. President," said Mercator. It also wasn't a

 "Ah-haaah." President Moctezuma wasn't sure how to proceed. "I want
your resignation."

 Mercator bowed his head. "I'm afraid that I can't give that to you,

 "Like hell you can't!" He slapped down a folder on the desk. "Look at
this, Mercator! A secret fusion bomb project? Half the Atlantic fleet
sitting idle in New Granada ports? _Billions_ of dólares of military
equipment transferred to the FANG? I didn't approve this! Congress
didn't  approve this! I know you've got your fief over there in
Coyoacan, but this crosses the line."

 Mercator shrugged, ever so slightly. "I'm not sure I know what you're
referring to, sir."

 El Popo exploded. "You f--king said you did!"

 The Colonel looked apologetic. "I said I might know why you had
called me here, which is, if I am not mistaken, to ask me to resign
>from my appointment as Secretary of War."

 "And this shit, Mercator," yelled Moctezuma, pointing at the folder
on his desk, "is why!"

 "I neither confirm nor deny, Mr. President."

 Moctezuma leaned back. "Fine. You're still fired. You're lucky that I
don't try you for _treason_."

 Mercator smiled. "I don't think so, sir."

 "You don't think so?"

 Mercator shook his head. "No, sir, I don't think you can fire me."

 Moctezuma fists clenched. "Gaaah-aaaaah. I'm the President. You're my

 "That is true, Mr. President, but you cannot fire me. Or," he
shrugged, impishly, "at least that's what the lawyers tell me." He
smiled, knowing that the President knew that he had once been a lawyer
himself, in another life a long time ago.

 Moctezuma was calm now. "I don't care about the f--king lawyers.
You're still fired."

 Mercator shrugged again, palms up. "You may not care about lawyers,
sir, but the Congress of the United States of Mexico may. You see, if
you look closely, it turns out that no President has actually _fired_
any Cabinet level secretaries, although several have voluntarily

 Moctezuma was not slow. He cut into what was clearly turning into an
impromptu speech on constitutional law. "You're going to take this to
Congress, then? Big risk, Mercator. My people made substantial gains
in the midterm elections."

 Mercator bowed. "That is true, Mr. President. An impeachment hearing,
however, might lead to the revelation of some important information
that you might wish to keep hidden."

 "Nnnngah-ffaagh. You think you got something on me?"

 Mercator smiled. "Of course not! I simply know something that you
might wish to keep hidden."

 Laying his hands on his desk, palms down, President Moctezuma asked
through clenched teeth, "What?"

 "I know who your father was." Mercator smiled a closed-mouth smile,
an innocent expression on his face.

 Moctezuma's face had been angry. Suddenly it went blank.

 Mercator continued.  "Your father, Alexander Hamilton Moctezuma, was
in fact born just plain Alexander no-last-name, on the Tlalhualilo
plantation on the border between Durango and Arizona, on May 31st,
1890. He escaped from Tlalhualilo on February 21st, 1907. Well,
actually, we do not know if he escaped on that day, but that was when
the plantation first registered his absence. Alexander Hamilton
Moctezuma first made his appearance in Puerto Veracruz, Mexico
Central, on March 3rd, 1907, where he worked on a construction site.
Shall I go on?"

 Moctezuma's face got even blanker, if that was possible. "No."

 "I understand, and I do apologize, for whatever that's worth." The
Colonel actually managed to look apologetic.

 "Get out."

 "Of course, sir." Mercator spun around on his heel, took two strides,
halted, looked over his shoulder and asked, "Your father never told
you, did he, Mr. President?"

 "Get out." Mercator nodded, and moved to leave. "And one more thing.
You're fired."

 Mercator smiled, that relaxed closed-mouth smile, and left El Popo to


 [1] A shaved head is referred to as a "coco" in Mexico.  A sunroof is
called a "quemacoco."  You figure it out.

 [2] The "working uniform" is the equivalent of the modern U.S. Army
class-B uniforms. In  this case, it's a light turtleneck with
shoulderboards and subdued branch insignia pinned to the neck, often
worn with a leather bomber jacket.  (The Air Corps people are not
happy that the entire Army has adopted this style, but what can they
do?)  Army dress greys are referred to as "greasies."  They are about
as popular as you'd expect from the name.  The AUSM (pronounced
"awesome") doesn't stand much on ceremony.