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For All Nails #167:  A Message from Big Brother

By Henrik Kiertzner

Burgoyne, Pennsylvania
2 January 1975

The Chief of Staff of the Confederation Armed Forces, Admiral of the
Fleet
Sir Samuel Smith, was not a happy man. He was juggling the forces 
available to the Confederation to meet the sudden crisis which had
erupted
in the weeks since the Christmas Atrocity and was coming to the
conclusion that the Armed Forces were in no way ready for a
large-scale engagement of
any description. The Governor-General had issued a highly secret
warning
order  to the Armed Forces, alerting them to the possibility of war
with
the Old World - on the side, perhaps, of the USM - and Smith was
deeply depressed at his nation's capabilities.

The Army was still in a state of chaos - a number of Regular units had
completed their retraining since the Boricuan debacle, but no 
formation-level exercises had yet taken place and thus, while the CNA
had
a considerable number of well-trained battalion-level units, it had no
equivalent brigade and divisional-level formation staffs to control
their
operations. The Army General Staff College had still to graduate its
first
class of the "new breed", trained by British and Australian liaison 
officers, the new logistic support organisation existed mainly on
paper
and the integration of Air Branch firepower with the Army Ground
Forces
was also mainly theoretical. The Air Branch, with its cavalry
tradition,
was exceptionally well-suited to single combat with the /vaqueros/ ,
but
had yet to grasp that a primary role was delivery of ordnance upon 
the enemy on the ground, whether through strategic bombing or tactical
air
support.

His own Service, the Navy, was in somewhat better condition. Leaving
aside
that the Royal Confederation Marines Corps was still in a parlous 
state, under rebuild since its decimation in Boricua, it still
disposed of
the Home Fleet, the Gulf Fleet and the Atlantic Fleet, altogether a
good
theoretical match for the USM Navy, but significantly inferior to the 
(worst-case) enemy naval strength of the German, Scandinavian and 
British navies combined.

The very prospect of finding himself at war with the Royal Navy was
one to
terrify him. Quite apart from the fact that the two Services were so 
closely related and shared so many traditions, he himself still felt
the
shame at having sat on the sidelines during the Global War and watched
the
British take on and hold the might of the German Empire, without 
intervening. As a junior Sub-Lieutenant on HMNAS Vandalia in 1943,
Smith
had watched as a German heavy cruiser had engaged and sunk a British 
passenger ship and had writhed, impotently, as his Captain had
complied
with his orders and only intervened to take off the few survivors
after
the Germans had completed their bloody work.

A double rap at the closed door to his office brought his chin up. His
aide-de-camp, a fine young officer from the 4th South Vandalian Light 
Dragoons, marched in, halted, saluted and announced:

"Sir, the British Senior Military Attache presents his compliments and
wonders if you might spare him half an hour?"

This was highly unusual. The British officer, a diplomat, would
normally
engage with the Chief of Staff during office hours only after formal 
approaches through the High Commission. He and Smith were good friends
off-duty and would usually contrive to deal with any matters they
needed
to discuss in a more informal context, usually over a glass whiskey.

Smith raised his eyebrows and removed the gold-rimmed spectacles from
his
nose, straightened his cravat and put down his pipe:

"Show the Attache in, please, Julian."

The door opened fully and the British Senior Military Attache, 
Major-General Sir Padraig O Cellaigh, resplendent in the dark green 
working uniform of his old regiment, the Royal Irish Rifles, and
wearing
the rows of ribbons denoting a long and active career taking on the
King's
enemies, walked in, halting and saluting before dropping into the
armchair
Smith indicated with a fractional nod.

"Padraig. An unexpected pleasure to see you, especially under the 
circumstances. What can we do for you?"

Smith was desperate not to show his concern that O Cellaigh had come
to
inform him that the British were withdrawing their training staffs and
liaison officers, whose input was so vital in rebuilding the CNA Armed
Forces.

"Sam. Good of you to see me. I quite realise," - cocking an eyebrow -
"how
busy you are, but I have just received instructions from London to
come
and bring you a message."

Smith leaned back, his expression neutral.

"A message? What sort of message?"

"Quite a complicated one, I'm afraid. There are two parts to it. The
first
is in this note to the Governor-General from the King - actually from
Gold
- and the second is verbal. The note says, in part," - the General's 
expression blanked as he went into recital mode - "His Majesty's 
Government is conscious of the particular circumstances in which the 
Confederation of North America finds itself with particular reference
to
the less-than-optimal correlation of forces in the North American
region
and is thus aware of the need to avoid presenting the
Governor-General's
Government with any choices which it will find unacceptable. His
Majesty's
Government thus asks that the Chief of Staff of the Confederation
Armed
Forces convey to the Governor-General, confidentially, the
accompanying
verbal communication to this Note."

"So what does that mean, Padraig?"

"That's the crux of it. The verbal communication is this (and this
comes
directly from Gold): we - and a number of associated powers - are
going to
take action to locate Mercator and eliminate his organisation. We
suspect
that the bulk of the action necessary will take place in New Granada
and
the United States and we hope that the local authorities will
cooperate in
taking this action. We see no threat to CNA strategic interests and 
certainly plan no hostile actions against any CNA installation, unit
or
asset.

"We have not formally asked the CNA to associate itself with us for
two
reasons - the first the CNA's demonstrated... reluctance... to become 
involved in foreign adventures, the second, our awareness that the CNA
is
not in a condition to make war upon the USM, which would be a clear
risk
if the CNA were to become a formal member of an international alliance
which might be seen as being directed at the United States.

"My Government thus asks that you convey to the Governor-General all
of
this and that we will be making separate approaches to the USM to
explain
what is going on. If we can convince the United States to cooperate
with
us, we will then revert to you and ask you for a formal commitment to
our
operation; should we be unsuccessful, we would ask for your neutrality
during our operations, which will be directed solely at the
elimination of
this barbarism."

"So the message is, basically, come in with us or stay out
altogether?"

"I'm afraid so, Sam. I'm afraid so."

"I think we had better go and see the Governor-General. Now."