For All Nails #178: On The Border
Fort Romanov, Alaska, Russian Empire
March 2, 1898
General Mikhail Kornilov (1) did not look like a happy
man. "This operation of yours has apparently made the
Mexicantsi mad, Major Federov," he observed from
behind the desk in his office.
Ivan Federov, standing at attention in front of the
desk, was worried he had worsened a developing
international argument. "Sir, at the time, we did
seem to be within Russian territory. The map
indicated we were a quarter mile north of the border.
We could see one of their border patrols south of us.
That was enough to display notice that we are serious
about protecting Russian interests, so we headed back
to the base."
Kornilov was not impressed. "Did you look at the map
"No, sir, I had Captain Gomez look up our location,"
Ivan replied, nodding his head toward his aide. Gomez
stood at attention behind him and to his right.
Kornilov's agitation shot up another notch. "So what
you are saying, Ivan Pavlovich, is that rather than at
least confirm what this boorets (2) was telling
you, you trusted him. You trusted his word you were
within our lands, when you were two miles into Mexico!
That patrol you saw was a search party for a missing
child from a nearby farm! You never saw any border
patrol because you had gone completely to one side of
them! Now the Mexicans are protesting to St.
Petersburg about repeated border violations. I'll
admit that a couple of groups from Fort Mironov to the
east of us also went too far south, but your conduct
has helped to exacerbate this affair, Major."
Gomez spoke softly to Federov, "If I may, sir?" Ivan
nodded; he had heard Antonio's explanation and decided
he'd probably have made the same error if he had
looked at the map. Gomez stepped forward and saluted.
"General, sir, we have both agreed that Hill 64, to
our immediate west at the time, bears an uncanny
resemblance to Hill 75, which really is a quarter mile
inside the border."
"Yes, sir," added Federov, "I did look at the map
since our mistake came to light, and I do not think I
would have spotted the error either."
Kornilov now looked as though he was about to explode.
"ENOUGH! Because your aide can't read a map, and you
couldn't check it, AND by your admission it would not
have done any good anyway, the Californians have
increased the alerts on their state forces. Owned by
Kramer, of course. How long before Kramer Associates
gets Hermion mad at us enough to act? Marshal
Tikhonov himself wants a copy of my report on the
matter. Am I to tell him that I must apparently be on
hand to check the work of all my officers in person?
Go, Major, and take your illiterate brown aide with
you. You'll be having no more marches outside the
base for a while." Kornilov waved his hand, motioning
them out of the office.
The two of them walked out of the general's office and
into the base's quad. Federov grimaced, and then
looked uncomfortably at Gomez. "I'm sorry you had to
be there for that."
Antonio shrugged. "No worse than the same prejudices
I've been getting for twenty years in the Russian
Army. I consider myself a Russian more than a Mexican
- don't tell my parents that, please, sir. I've lived
in Alaska since I was six. I even _think_ in Russian
half the time. So why doesn’t anyone but you accept
me in these forces?"
"Distrust of someone different, I suppose. The Army
is so full of Russians that all of them have gotten to
thinking they're entitled to be the only ones allowed
Gomez sighed. "So what do I do? I've been wondering
that for a long time and never got a good answer."
Federov tried to put some cheer on the situation. "Do
the best job you can. Prove yourself worthy of their
trust. If we can do that enough, they'll forget about
this sooner or later."
"I hope so." Gomez sighed again.
1. Mentioned in Sobel, p. 239. Not the same man as
General Lavr Kornilov who died in the Russian Civil
War in 1918.
2. Russian slur used to refer to Hispanics in general
and Mexican Hispanos/Mexicanos specifically. Derived
from boory (brown) and converted into a noun.