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For All Nails #5: Out of Uniform

Near Williams Pass, Mexico Del Norte [1], USM
18 September 1969

"Ok, _chico_, let's hear it again."

The skinny black youth flinched at an expected blow that didn't
come -- this time -- then answered in a grunt.

"Swazey Patrick, Lieutentant, 3rd Fremont's Peak Irregulars, Southern
Vandalia Militia".

Now the Mexican officer did hit him.

"Southern Vandalia Militia my left _cojon_.  You expect me to believe
that anybody over the line is going to admit to having anything to do 
with you _chicos_?  You're expecting maybe that you're POW's or something,
that the laws of war hold here?  You're out of uniform, _negro_, and so
are your buddies here.  We can string you up right here, we can work you
over the Comanche way, we can do whatever we want.  You're _sixteen miles_
inside Mexican territory, with five sticks of dynamite and guns that don't
quite fit your little hunting story.  Now I want to know two things.
What were you going to blow up, and what part of your damned government
sent you?"

"Swazey Patrick, Lieutenant, 3rd Fremont's -- uuh!"

"Save it, _tenente_.  Standing Bear!"

"Sir!"

"Bring the wounded _negro_ over here.  It's time for _Tenente_ Patrick
to get a taste of the responsibilities of command.  Ok, kid, how far do
we have to go?  We _do_ have a doctor, and as soon as we have some answers
your _compadre_ here can see her [2].  In the meantime, Corporal Standing Bear
here has been reading about how the Comanches did things back in the old
days..."

_____________________________________


Somewhat Near Point Harrington, Alaska, USM
18 September 1969

Constable Dwight Dudley of the Royal Manitoba Constabulary was out of
uniform.  The dress reds looked smashing on parade, and they were quite
practical in his usual line of work, when he _wanted_ to be noticed.  
But here, hundreds of miles within Mexican territory, with a flaky spook
and a few dogs for company, he was very happy _not_ to be noticed.  He and
Huggins were supposed to be prospectors, and they had tools and even 
Mexican passports to match.  But Dudley wasn't anxious to meet anybody,
particularly not the Inuit [3] who "kept order" here for the USM.  At least
Huggins knew what to do with the prospector's tools...

Huggins came away from the small hut, which he had called a "passive
monitoring station".

"Like I thought, it was a good-sized TNT explosion, and there's some
radioactivity around, but overall it was another big dud for Mercator.
We'll know more when I get this mag tape back home.  You know, if they
ever get their act together we're going to have just a beautiful picture
of the geology of the whole polar region.  I think there's a lot more
oil here than the USM knows about -- the question is whether it stretches
into Manitoba as well."

"I hope you don't have any more rocks to carry.  We've got a long way to
go, and barely food for the dogs."

"Relax, I've got samples of all the major formations around here.  Mostly
Silurian, with a bit of -- holy sh-t!".  A flash lit up the northern sky.

"Should we take cover?  We've got a minute or two for the blast, right?"

"It's not another bomb, it can't be.  Besides, it's in the wrong place, the
bomb test site is over that way.  They've got a whole 'nother site for 
something else, that we never knew about -- at least nobody told me.  
There, look!"

The flash had not gone out, but was moving upward.  Huggins pulled out his
surveying compass and began sighting on it.

"Ok, here we go.  We'll get the seismic before we go, but the main thing
is to find out where it's going.  I hope someone else is going to pick it
up, because it'll be a while before we can report.  God, that thing is 
big.  Do you suppose it's going all the way to earth orbit?  By the way,
there's no blast to worry about, but we're going to have a hell of a noise
in a few minutes.  The exact time'll give us range, and we have bearing..."

Dudley pulled out a pad of paper and Huggins began reading off numbers.

NOTES:

[1] I don't have Noel's revised USM state divisions with me, but this is
    OTL southern Colorado west of OTL Colorado Springs, unless anyone has
    strong opinion about where the RMW line of control wound up.

[2] No doubt the USM has lots of female doctors for the same reasons as the
    OTL USSR.  This field _medica_'s name is later revealed to be Carmen
    Valenzuela.

[3] The Inuit, like most Native groups, are strongly pro-USM.

Dave MB