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For All Nails #148: Happy New Year!
by Henrik Kiertzner

Roenne, Bornholm, Kingdom of Scandinavia
1 January 1975

"We are agreed, then.  Our interests, which have been so clearly divergent for
so long, now run in concord.  We cannot tolerate this, this, /obscenity/ any
longer."

"Precisely so.  His Imperial Majesty and my Cabinet have given me full
plenipotentiary status and assigned me the right to sign the proposed
instrument."

"As his Majesty the King and the United Imperial Parliament has me."

"And I, too, have the right, indeed, the obligation, to commit the Kingdom of
Scandinavia to this instrument."

One after another, the plenipotentiaries of Australia, Taiwan and Siam assented
that they, too, were prepared to enact the instrument.  Solemnly, the men,
mainly well-dressed, if showing the signs of an unwonted night's wakefulness,
queued to sign the elaborate parchment.

A heavy silence settled over the room, which was blurred with cigarillo fumes
and reeking of too many men enclosed for too long in a small, overheated room.

The German Chancellor lit one last cheroot and leant back in his stiff chair.

"What, I wonder, will they call this in years to come... the Bornholm
Understanding?  The Baltic Ultimatum?  The Old World Pact?"

"Does it matter?"

"Not really, no."

The gathering dispersed to its waiting airmobiles.  Overhead, the joint patrols
of Scandinavian and German chargers drew graceful arabesques in the icy Baltic
skies.

The Scandinavian Chancellor lingered a moment.  There was no immediate rush to
leave; the text of the instrument was already known in the national capitals
and the various General Staffs were already conferring.

He morosely studied the map of the Western Hemisphere pinned on the long wall
and reached his hand into the pocket of his black velvet formal coatee and
produced a lighter, which he flicked into flame and, expressionless, played
across Central America.  The heavy rag paper caught quickly and he stood in the
room as the light from the burning map played across his set face before, the
fire gone out, he turned and left, leaving the door ajar.