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For reasons that are too complicated to go into right now, I'm re-posting the
first FANTL historical vignette, first posted as FAN Flashback #1: Rocky
Mountain Way.  Return with us now to those thrilling days of two months ago,
when shwi first learned of a previously unknown incident from the Rocky
Mountain War . . .

For All Nails #134: Rocky Mountain Way

Ministry of War, Burgoyne, CNA 
22 March 1848 

General FitzJohn Smithers was not a happy man. Normally, being chief aide to
Minister of War Henry Gilpin was a rewarding job, both emotionally and
financially. The only downside was that whenever bad news came over the
telegraph from the front lines, he was the one who had to tell Gilpin, and that
was never enjoyable. Smithers lived in fear of the day when Gilpin would decide
that he needed a new aide with less bad news to report. On that day, Smithers
knew with sick certainty, his soft duty in Burgoyne would be at an end, and
he'd be assigned to one of the units that were actually fighting the Mexicans.
Would this be the day? As Smithers knocked on the door to Gilpin's inner
office, he felt a tremor run down his spine. 

"Enter," said the harshly sibilant voice that was the center of Smithers'
universe. Smithers did so, and saluted. 

Gilpin's attention was focused upon a report spread across his desk, and all
that Smithers could see of him was a bare scalp surrounded by a fringe of gray
hair. "Yes, Smithers," said Gilpin without looking up, "what is it?" 

"Sir, we've just received a wire from New Orleans. General Williamhouse reports
that he's been forced to withdraw his forces from Tampico. The pressure from
the Mexican army was just too intense." 

At last Gilpin looked up from his desk. A look of annoyance crossed his pinched
features, and he narrowed his already beady eyes. "That's not good, Smithers,
not good at all. Without a force in place to threaten Mexico City, the rebel
dogs will be free to launch an attack upon the Confederation." Smithers wasn't
quite certain just how old Gilpin was; evidently old enough to remember the War
of the Rebellion and the Wilderness Walk, because he never referred to the
Mexicans as anything other than "rebel dogs". 

"We need to secure another base within striking distance of their capital,"
Gilpin continued. "Just a few weeks' hard marching, and they'd have those rebel
dogs staring down their gun barrels. Aha! I've got it! We'll send an army to
take San Francisco!" 

"But, sir, San Francisco isn't --" 

"Don't argue, Smithers!" Gilpin snarled. "Do as I say!" 

"Yes, Mr. Gilpin," said Smithers meekly. 

Rising from his seat, Gilpin began to pace back and forth in front of his
office window. "But who to command this army? Lodge and Chapin have shown
themselves to be utterly lacking in fortitude, and you say Williamhouse
couldn't even hold Tampico against that gumbooted jackanapes Doheny." 

Pausing before the window, Gilpin looked out. "Smithers, who's that bald fellow
leading those troops?" 

Smithers joined Gilpin at the window. Gilpin's office looked out upon a square
of parkland attached to the War Ministry, which served as a drill field for
units stationed in Burgoyne. A company of men was standing at attention while
their commanding officer attempted without success to remove his index finger
>from the barrel of a pistol. He was angrily pounding the butt of the pistol
against a rock. "That's David Homer, sir, the officer in command of Company 7-G
of the Royal Springfield Grenadiers." 

"Homer, eh?" Gilpin purred. "Excellent, Smithers. Just the sort of no-nonsense
officer I've been looking for. I think we've just found the man to command this
campaign!" 

Smithers looked out the window again, just in time to see Homer accidentally
club himself unconscious with the pistol. It could be worse, Smithers decided.
At least it's Homer that's being sent out west to fight the Mexicans, and not
me.