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For All Nails #15
More Island Life

White Sands, Ile St. Jean [1], Nova Scotia
20 June 1970

Joshua Abramowitz surveyed the veranda of the White Sands Hotel.
He thought back to the airmobile pilot's last announcement: "Ladies
and gentlemen, we are now landing in Charlottetown, Nova Scotia.
Please set your watches back fifty years."  Certainly the veranda 
had the confident opulence of the Dewey years, and the music in the
background would have fit right into the old Galloway Concert Hall
of the Air.  If he were the CNA's Deputy Science Minister back then,
his life would have been duller (mostly concerned with agronomy), but
that was a safer and more elegant time...

He easily spotted his lunch partners at a table overlooking the broad
white beach, the warm water of the Golfe St. Laurent, and the view of 
red cliffs streching along the shore in either direction.  The man was
in his sixties, with neatly trimmed white hair and short beard.  (He
recalled the more familiar mane of white hair in all directions from 
news photos -- it wouldn't do for anyone to recognize a once-famous
personality here.)  The striking young woman (late twenties, he recalled,
though she could pass for younger) wore a conservative long skirt to 
match the veranda and had her red hair piled behind her in the same era's
fashion.  They were deep in animated conversation, having already covered
pages of hotel stationary with equations and diagrams.  The man looked
up.

"Joshua, how nice to see you!  I hope you aren't come to spirit me away
again.  Two clandestine submarine journeys are quite enough for one 
lifetime."

Abramowitz looked sharply at the woman, who smiled.  The white-haired
man smiled as well.  "May I present Mrs. Shirley Gilbert [2], who I'm afraid
recognized me almost immediately from my old published papers?  She is
aware, in rough terms, of my recent employers and how I came to resign
my position there.  We've been talking all morning.  A remarkable mind,
Joshua, just as you said."

Abramowitz identified a scribbled but recognizable diagram of the Kramer
Bomb on one of the many pieces of paper, and made a mental note to see
that some trusted personnel kept after the scientist's rubbish.  Vincent
Mercator would pay dearly for that scrap of paper if he could.

"I'm glad to meet you at last, Mrs. Gilbert, and glad to see that you two
have hit it off.  Perhaps we can arrange to have you continue to work 
together?"

"It would be the privilege of a lifetime, sir," she said.  "I've done the
best I can to keep up with developments in atomic science from here, but
my widow's pension can only pay for so many books and journals.  I've 
learned more this morning that in the past two years..."

"I think we can promise you both a little better support in that regard,
though we don't want this address to show up on too many subscription lists
[3].  After all, Dr. Sterling is here in part because it's one of the last
places anyone would look for him.  I think it would be best if he laid low
here through the summer.  What happens next, Doctor, is largely up to you."

"Truly.  That fellow on the submarine, Liddy I believe, suggested that I
would be going straight to some secret laboratory."

"Men like Liddy are indispensable in their place, but I'm glad that I,
not they, are in charge of science policy.  What you've told us so far has
more than repaid our investment in bringing you here.  You've more than
earned a comfortable retirement, here or elsewhere.  With a bit of work
on your background you could have an emeritus position as any of our major
universities.  But if you should want to stay on the playing field, so to
speak, we of course have plenty of opportunities for you.  Naturally we are
most interested in tritium reactions, but you could work on calculating
machines, or space probes..."

"Space probes!"  The woman's green eyes shone.  "You know, a controlled
tritium reaction would be the ideal propulsion for a craft that could reach
the outer planets or even the stars!"

"You've got a bit of a problem _putting_ it in anything, though, don't you,
my dear?  Sort of like those old alchemists with their universal solvent..."

"But some sort of bottle of magnetic fields, perhaps..."

"I don't mean to interrupt, but do we have an agreement on the rough
arrangements?  You two stay here in comfort and obscurity for the summer.
I daresay there might be other physical types who just happen to decide on
a holiday here as well.  Mrs. Gilbert, if the Avonlea School District can
find another superintendent, you would be most welcome to join Dr. Sterling
wherever he decides to relocate.  Are you with us?"

"I think so.  Part of me will always be on the Island, of course, but since
my husband and my foster parents are all gone now... but first a question
for each of you.  Dr. Sterling, or 'Carlos', if I may, why have you chosen
us?  We are after all your potential _third_ homeland?"

"I hesitate to compare my losses to yours, my dear, but in a way I am a
widower twice over.  I saw my homeland descend into military dictatorship
and menace the world.  My dream of an enlightened private company, backed
by the Bomb, enforcing peace on the world has died as well.  Kramer wants
what is good for Kramer, and what is good for Taiwan.  And their leaders in
the end are accountants, not statesmen.  I have relatively few illusions 
about the CNA, I hope, but in many ways it is the land of freedom that
Mexico tried so hard to be.  If men, and women, are free to pursue their
destinies, there is no end to what they can accomplish.  If Mexico has
tritium Bombs and the CNA does not, the free institutions here will be
stifled.  If both have tritium Bombs, we have the same stalemate, and I
truly believe the two sides will have to talk to one another.  We will get
our international order, and be free to live as we were meant to live."

"That's a good answer.  Now you, Deputy Minister.  Why me?  Why are you
giving this opportunity to a widowed schoolteacher from Nova Scotia?"

"Well, I could say that you're the best person for the job, and that would
be true or at least close to it.  Your professor at Redmond told me that as
an undergraduate you were smarter not only than all the students, but than
him and than everyone he had ever met in the physics department of McGill.
But I do have an ulterior motive as well.  Your talent ought to be serving
your country, whether in a secret laboratory or in a university.  I'm sure
you're not the only woman who could succeed in science given half a chance.
As the research assistant of "Dr. Charles Sterling", you'll get that 
chance, and possibly lead the way for hundreds of girls and women to follow."

"That's a good answer too.  Well, Charles?  Would you like a willing pupil
for the summer, and as long after that as you want?"

Abramowitz could not miss the look that passed between the two physicists.
Romance?  Far stranger things had happened, of course.  Urquell had left
the CNA for a woman, or more precisely for _several_ women.  It never hurt
a man at war to be reminded what he was fighting for, even in a War Without
War.

The man who had been Carlos Sparling broke his eye contact, turned to 
Abramowitz, and solemnly held out his hand.

Notes:

[1] After some consultation the informal FAN steering committee have decided
    that the semi-independent entity of Nova Scotia includes all of OTL Nova
    Scotia plus PEI and an expanded New Brunswick (called "New Ireland")
    including the part of the St. John valley in OTL Maine and a bit more 
    of the Gaspe region of OTL Quebec.  [Note added later: Quebec has the
    entire Gaspesie and the valley of the Baie de Chaluer, but Nova Scotia
    includes the Penobscot valley of OTL Maine and everything east of it.]

    OTL Idaho being in the USM, Nova Scotia has a monopoly on the best 
    potato land in the greater CNA.  Newfoundland and the nearby islands 
    are a direct part of the United Kingdom, with the same limited Home 
    Rule as Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

    A map of North America with revised internal boundaries for the CNA and
    USM is in the works.

    PEI is called variously "Ile St. Jean", "Abegweit", and "the Island" in
    the ATL, as the name "Prince Edward" never caught on.  If anything its
    history is even less eventful than in OTL.  I wanted a story there anyway
    and could only manage it through a variant of the Witness Protection
    Program...

[2] Any physical similarity between Mrs. Gilbert and the OTL actress Megan
    Follows is of course purely coincidental.

[3] In OTL's WWII, it has been claimed that the staff of _Astounding Science
    Fiction_ noted the unusual number of their subscribers who had moved to
    Los Alamos NM, Oak Ridge TN, and Hanford WA...

Dave MB