For All Nails pt. 124 - The Two-Headed Snake
Conyers, El Norte - July 13, 1974
Terry Henning was chopping up RES and radio listening equipment like it was
firewood back at his parents' house. The seemingly-slight Vandalian redhead
had to hunch down a bit, even at 5'8", in the fuselage of his Athena, to
prevent bumping his head on the ceiling.
Manual labor had a way of making the mind wander. Corporal Terrence Henning,
Royal North American Air Force, recalled a "Nature in the Wild" segment from
the Dr. Science show he watched as a child. It showed a two-headed snake.
It appeared to function like a normal snake, but it definitely had two heads,
each neck forming a 90-degree angle whose bisector followed the snake's body.
His mind wandered to the Mexican flag, with its snake in the lower right-hand
corner. He now pictured that snake having two heads - both identical, but
both representing two disparate sets of memories, thoughts, and emotions.
The one head screamed treachery, lawlessness, brutality, and pain. Every
schoolchild in West North City knew about George Irving. Irving, a serjeant
with the Northern Vandala militia, had been out scouting the Big Horn
mountains, and was separated from his platoon. Any Rocky Mountain scouting
party of that era (1849, to be precise) was in danger, but Serjant Irving,
West North City's first war hero, was not only lost, but was a freed slave as
When his platoon found his remains, 10 days after they lost him, the sight
was horrifying. He had been scalped, and all of his teeth had been removed.
Additionally, and this convinced his platoon that Mexican regulars had also
been involved, no less than 50 lash marks adorned Irving's back. George
Irving Square in West North City was built as a tribute to a simple man,
trying to give back something to the nation that freed him. While only some
CNA children were told about Serjant Irving, West North City children had a
whole "George Irving Day" to celebrate the man, and vilify the enemy - both
Mexican and Indian, that brutally killed him.
More than madman Mercator, and his paranoid quest to rout out Kramer, and his
supposed Tory allies, did this image of 50 lashes represent the one head.
While Terry knew from the Vandalian road music he loved so much that he could
never feel the years of repression slavery brought upon the negroes, he did
know that Mexico took over half-a-century longer to free their slaves than
did his own country.
But the other head, the one that represented the purest of the ideals of
freedom that inspired the Wilderness Walk, looked off into the distance of a
brighter future - one worthy of a struggle. The same Vandalian road music
that he liked so much also sung of Diffusion, and Mexico finally freeing its
own slaves. This Mexico was able to (somewhat) better itself, especially its
own poor. Terry, with his eye for detail that made him a good artist, and
photo analyst for the RCNAAF, wondered if the new Mexican president was
himself descended from a freed slave. And speaking of freedom, the freedom
those Mexicans did have...
The love of Terry's 20-year-old life, Sonya, shared Terry's love of road
music, but she also like Juan... and Tania. The last time he met her was in
Lincoln, near the field. She had surprised him already by visiting him, but
she surprised him doubly by meeting him wearing a Tania-top. Terry had to
admit that while grudgingly watching Tania on the Walt show with Sonya, he
imaginged, and even once drew, Sonya wearing clothes like Tania's. The
jarring effect of remembering his Norwegian blonde in Mexican clothing was
enough to physically distract Terry while he was smashing his beloved
magnifying lenses. Fortunately, another distraction quickly overrode the
"Gentlemen," spoke Lieutenant Bruce, Terry's superior, and intelligence
officer for the flight. The crew of enlisted specialists snapped to
attention, their axes being held like assault rifles.
"We have been asked to step out of the airmobile. Lieutenant Stapleton," the
tone of his Virginian accent quite disdainful of the newly-outed
Jeffersonist, "has given us her assurances that we'll be returned home within
48 hours. Whether or not that's true," he paused, "I want you to remember
you represent the Confederation, and her ideals. You will hold yourselves
with poise, and make your king and country proud." That he mentioned,
"king," indicated his upbringing.
Terry wondered which head of the snake would he meet today.
. . .
Undisclosed Mexican Base - 36 hours later
"It's nice to meet you, Captain Gilmore," said Terry, snapped at attention
with a salute.
His guest quarters were quite luxurious for being a mere corporal, though he
had to share it with two of his crewmates - Lester and Cardiff. They hadn't
talked much - Cardiff had noticed the listening equipment almost immediately.
This was okay by Terry, as it gave him time to finish a pencil drawing he had
been working on. He was hoping to submit it to Jack-and-Stripes, or perhaps
one of the civilian newspapers, to sum up his experience here. Once the
guards had made it clear that "El Popo", which is how the Mexicans referred
to their President Moctezuma, was going to make sure they got home before 48
hours had elapsed, it amazed Terry at how, well, _down home_ these gringos
"Have they been treating you well," she glanced at his arm for insignia,
"Yes ma'am. And we've been," he looked at where Cardiff thought the
microphone was, hoping she'd get the hint, "quiet guests."
Did she smile? "As I'd expect, Corporal. What's that you have down there?"
"Something I'm working on for Jack-and-Stripes, I hope. It sums up, well, it
sums up how I feel about this place."
Captain Gilmore picked up the paper, and she examined every detail. The
snake, looking identical to the one on the Mexican flag, but with two heads.
One head was looking very much like the one on the flag - it had the words
"Freedom, Ideals, Hope" on its neck. The second one looked sinister, with
the words "Aggression, Fear, Treachery" on its neck. The sinister head,
however, was suffering. It had a hand choking it just below the words. The
hand, the left hand, belonged to a shaven-headed figure, with his right hand
pointing down the to motto "Don't Tread on Me". The visible right bicep had
a tattoo with a simple phrase:
She put down the paper and, in Terry's view, grew colder than any winter
night Terry had endured growing up.
"Watch that other head, too, Corporal. Miss Stapleton didn't." The way she
said, "Miss Stapleton" reminded him a lot of Lt. Bruce. _Maybe they should
get together_, he briefly thought.
Terry never forgot Capt. Gilmore, but it only took him a few months to