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For All Nails #196: Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

Southern Alaska, Russian Empire
August 6, 1898

"How did it all fall apart so easily?"

Major Ivan Federov took a second to realize his aide had said something.
 He looked over at Captain Gomez.  "The war, you mean?"  he replied.

"Yes," Gomez said in an angry tone of voice.  "We were twenty miles from
San Francisco, and they were running away like cowards.  All of a sudden,
everything reversed itself.  We are retreating now.  I sometimes wonder who
Kornilov knew to get to be a general."

"I hear his sister married some count," Federov told him, "but why this command
would be a political prize is beyond me.  Anyway, they let us advance before,
so the Kramertsi could get us to provoke Hermion."  He took another look,
the fifth one in an hour, through his binoculars at the Mexican positions.
 He had trouble seeing anything, just like the other times, but he kept hoping
for a change.  The Mexicans were well-hidden among the trees and bushes.
 Most of the rest of the battle area had been leveled more, but there were
still trees to hide among where his battalion faced the enemy.

"Three days of no movement either way.  My entrenching tool is glad I don't
have to dig more holes," Gomez said.

"We aren't even close to the coast or one of the rivers so we could fish
for food.  All the wildlife is either already dead or scared off.  Provisions
are even lower than normal."  Ivan wondered how the men were taking it. 
He himself hadn't eaten since yesterday.

As he thought this, he wished he knew how well-fed the men in General Stockton's
forces were.  No doubt the USM army had started off better, but how were
they now?

"Antonio," he asked Gomez, "how are the men holding up?"

"Well, sir, they are starting to grumble a little."  Just then, a series
of rifle shots came from the Mexican line.  _Hatfield is good_, Ivan thought.
 He had expected his opposite number to be a formidable enemy, and he had
not been disappointed.

He saw artillery piece behind them loading a shell to fire in that direction,
when a Mexican shell landed squarely on their gun.

Ivan swore, stopped to collect his thoughts, and then he swore again.  "Antonio,
that artillery shell-"

"-never whistled over our heads before it landed, Gomez finished his sentence
for him, indicating they were thinking the same thing.

Federov continued the train of thought, although he knew Gomez had figured
out the same thing he had.  "Which means it didn't come from the south, or
we'd have heard it.  _Bozhemoi_, (1) they've surrounded us!"  Other shells
burst among the Russian positions now, some whistling, others not.  Ivan
heard some of the Mexican cannons firing from the north.  "We must warn the
general!  Corporal Fetisov!"

The soldier he had summoned came dashing up and failed to salute.  Federov
supposed that was good; he didn't want the Mexicans to take shots at officers.
"Get to General Kornilov's camp right away.  Tell him we are facing Mexicans
to the north and south of us, and warn him to expect Mexicans to show up
on his north as well.  Hurry, before the whole army is encircled!"  The courier
ran off.

Gomez looked north.  "They must have landed marines north of us on the coast
somewhere and marched south.  Sneaky."

Ivan and Antonio made their way north through the Russian forces to check
out the second front.  As they got there, a voice called out in English,
"Hey, Ivan, you'd better give up now.  We have you on two sides.  You've
got no chance."

_Have they been in touch with Hatfield?  How would they know my name?_  Then
Ivan realized the Mexican didn't.  The voice's owner had been referring to
the Russians in general.

"Come on, you nekulturny Ivan dogs!  We'd like to not waste our ammo on inferior
targets!"

Gomez swore in English, Russian, and Spanish.  "This cannibated durak (3)
is calling _us_ nekulturny?  He's probably using mota right now!  I wonder
if he even knows what it means!"

Federov had a more concise response to the taunts, though.  He took a deep
breath and yelled across the way, "Yob tvoyu mat!" (4)

The Mexican paused a minute, then came back with, "Is she any better than
yours was?  How do you think we found you so easy?"

Federov had had about all he could take.  "I am not surrendering to them.
 We may be doomed, but I want to lose with my honor intact.  I am hoping
for good news from the general after he gets our message."

As if by divine intervention, a courier approached and handed Ivan a paper,
then saluted.  "Thank you, Private...?"

"Dzhanibekov, sir."

"Private Dzhanibekov.  Thank you."

Ivan may have been willing to take his thanks back after reading the message.
 It was from Kornilov: "Nikolaevsk captured.  Enemy has landed marines. 
 Much of Novaya Volga in Mexican hands.  Watch out for enemy approach from
north to surround you.  Most of army already trapped in pincers.  Kornilov."

"Is it real?" asked Gomez.

"It has to be.  Kornilov always signs with just his last name.  Also, I know
his writing."

Antonio grumbled.  "So what do we do now?"

"Don't tell the men of this message,"  Ivan tore the paper to tiny pieces.
 "And pass the word to the officers to prepare to charge the northern positions.
 Who knows, we might get lucky."

The charge came an hour after that.  Ivan led his men against the Mexicans
to the north, screaming a mad war cry.  Mexican rifles fired and Mexican
artillery boomed.  Russian weapons responded, but not shot for shot.  By
then, ammunition was in short supply.  The Russians still had sharp bayonets,
however.  Quite a few enemy soldiers received stab wounds from them.

After fifteen minutes of fighting, though, Ivan noticed the Russian ranks
were thinning.  Sharp bayonets didn't need to be reloaded, but they could
only kill from close up.  Many Russian soldiers were falling to Mexican guns.

Ivan saw a lieutenant to his east lose his head to an artillery shell while
leading a platoon through the enemy ranks.  Then Ivan felt a sharp pain in
his chest.  He looked down to see his shirt was covered with blood.

Ivan Pavlovich Federov gasped "Antonio..." as he sank to his knees.  "If
you make it, tell my wife and children that I died well."  He was barely
able to get the last few words out before he fell on his face.  Darkness
fell.

Gomez said solemnly, "I swear," as another courier came dashing up while
staying low.  The paper he handed Gomez was an order from Kornilov to surrender.
 It was over.  Kornilov's army had been the main Russian force in Alaska.
 With it defeated, Alaska was Mexico's for the taking.  Kornilov had surrendered.
 _To the Mexicans on the north or the south?_  Gomez looked around as he
realized that he was in charge now.  He called out orders for the Russians
to lay down their arms.



1. My God.

2. Uncultured, a big insult.

3. Fool.

4. F--k your mother.