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Subject: For All Nails #51m: Victoria's Secret (Part 13)

Carrollton, Victoria
10 May 1973

Ambassador the Honourable John Gilmore hated formal dinners.
That was an unfortunate trait in a diplomat, and one he hid
well, but it was a strong one nevertheless.  He hated the inane
chatter, the formulaic speeches, the vulcanized beef [FN1];
whenever he could, he preferred to turn down invitations to
functions and conduct diplomatic business over intimate
gatherings at the embassy.

When an invitation came from the Prime Minister of Victoria and
the British High Commissioner, though, he could hardly refuse.
And refusal was doubly impossible when the invitation came from
both of them - so he had screwed up his courage and gone.

Of course, Gilmore's courage was nothing compared to Patten's
in his choice of venue.  Carrollton wasn't his territory, and
the members of the Victorian-British Friendship Society weren't
his friends.  The Victoria United Party had been the pro-German
party since the war, and many of those in this room still
considered Patten a traitor. [FN2]  Gilmore was sure there
wasn't a man in the room, other than Patten himself, who had
voted for the Victoria United Party in the last election, and
he was sure that most of the jokes they shared about Patten at
their clubs were vicious.

Patten rose gamely to the occasion, enduring the murmured
insults during dinner and waiting his turn at the podium.  He
drew surprisingly few catcalls when he finally stood up to
speak, probably because of the warm introduction he received
from Lord Carrington.  Whatever they might think of Patten,
the members of the Friendship Society weren't about to insult
the British ambassador by heckling someone he had praised - and
many of them, no doubt, were genuinely curious as to why Lord
Carrington had found him worthy of such an accolade.

"Gentlemen," began Patten - there were no ladies in the room -
"I know that many of you are surprised to see me here.  I'm
sure, in fact, that many of you care neither for me nor for my
party.  And I'm not here to apologize for any of the necessary
things I may have done during or after the war."  _He means
taking part in the German occupation government_, Gilmore
realized, and waited for the storm.

But Patten soldiered on.  "Many of you - all of you, in fact -
believe I should not have done these things.  It may well be
that time will prove you right.  However, I emphasize - and in
this I have never lied to you, nor to anyone else - that I did
these things because I believed they were in the interests of
our great nation.  I can say, without fear of contradiction,
that my entire public life has been guided by these interests.
And these interests, gentlemen, are what brings me here today.

"Gentlemen, for the past thirty years, the State of Victoria
has been an associate and ally of Germany - but we have never
forgotten that our heritage is English, and that all things
that make us civilized come from England. [FN3]  It is my
belief, and has always been my belief, that Victoria should
renew its ties to the mother country, and, with the help of my
good friend Lord Carrington, that belief is about to become
reality.  If the Victoria United Party is returned to power in
one week's time, the State of Victoria will apply for associate
membership in the United Empire - and I have been authorized by
Lord Carrington to say that the United Empire will accept."

Very rarely in his diplomatic career had Ambassador Gilmore
encountered the truly unexpected.  This was one of those times.
He had known from Carrington's hints that something was in the
offing, but he hadn't imagined that it would be anything more
than trade agreements or shifting alliances.  The National
government in Britain considered the Victorians to be a sorry
lot of racialists - but they evidently liked the idea of a
British diplomatic coup at Germany's expense more than they
disliked Richard Patten.

Gilmore listened in stunned silence as Patten explained what
the terms of associate membership would be - free trade and
travel, preferential immigration, basing rights for British
troops, recognition of the British monarch as head of state.
_If that's what associate membership is, then North America
is an associate as well.  Thank God the British have had
better sense than to call us that..._

A moment later, the Prime Minister finished his speech, and
the members of the Friendship Society responded by doing what
many of them had never believed they would do - honoring him
with a standing ovation.  Many of them looked thoughtful as
they adjourned to the bar, Gilmore not least among them.

***

Nairobi, Victoria
12 May 1973

Ever since Antonio and Marķa Marques had emigrated to Victoria,
they had attended a Catholic church a few blocks from their
West Nairobi flat.  This week, however, Antonio had decided
that such a church was not commensurate with his newfound
importance.  So, instead of walking to church, they took a
streetcar to a middle-class Nairobi neighborhood and made their
way to an address that had been given to him by one of his
fellow Conservative Party workers.

Marķa pulled up sharply as they approached the door.  "It's
Church of England!" she whispered. [FN4]

Antonio looked around, making sure nobody had heard.  "Of
course it is.  That's where the important people go.  And
besides," he added, "they're _almost_ Catholic."

Marķa, whose faith was somewhat more genuine than her
husband's, wasn't entirely convinced, but Antonio drew her in
the door before she had time for further protest.  Whatever
else she wanted to say would have to wait, as her husband was
pulled away by party comrades and introduced around.

Antonio enjoyed being a great man at the church.  At their old
church, he had been worth as much as he could put in the
collection plate - which, most Sundays, wasn't a great deal.
The priest was even worse, some idiot with a foreign education
who kept nattering on about the need to reconcile with the
blacks.  Here, his friends from the party hall pressed
refreshments on him and told him that he ought to run for
office in four years, and the priest reassured his congregation
that everything they believed was true.

He was even able to put more money in the plate.  A month ago,
a pound had been a day's wage at the construction site.  Now,
Antonio could reach into his suit and donate a crisp pound note
to the congregation, and not feel the worse for it.  It was
just like Michael Ruffin had said at his first party meeting -
even an immigrant like Antonio could realize his dreams in
Victoria.

In the meantime, Marķa sat beside him and wondered about the
state of her soul.

***

Magistrates' Court
Nyeri, Victoria
14 May 1973

"Petition for hearing," the bailiff said.  "Number 73-682,
State of Victoria on relation of Letitia Ntimana against
Warden, Nyeri Detention Camp."

Magistrate Clement Chomsky surveyed the courtroom with
distaste.  "I assume you are the counsel for the relator?"

"I am, your Honor," answered Victoria Madoka.

"Then can you explain the presence of those three pickaninnies
in the gallery?" [FN5]

"Your Honor, those _children_ are the relator's daughters and
son.  I was hoping that, if my client were produced in court
today, they might have the opportunity to visit with her for a
short time.  They haven't seen her in more than a month."

"Counselor, I can assure you that there will be no need for the
relator to appear today - this case hardly warrants putting the
Public Prosecutor's office to such inconvenience.  And I remind
you that this is a courtroom, that decorum is supposed to
prevail here, and that I will not have these proceedings
disrupted by the antics of half-grown savages.  I order you to
remove them at once."

"Yes, your Honor."  Victoria took three steps to the bar that
separated the courtroom well from the gallery, and whispered to
the Ntimana children to sit on a bench outside.

"I'm surprised you have the gall to show up here yourself," the
judge continued.  "I may be old-fashioned, but I don't believe
that a convicted felon's place is at the counsel table."

"Thus far, your Honor, I'm not in gaol and I still have my law
license.  I intend to continue doing my job as long as both
these conditions obtain."

"If it were up to me, neither of them would - and I still have
the power to decide who may practice in my court.  Why don't
you tell me, Counselor, why I should listen to you at all?"

"Your Honor, no court in Victoria has ever denied a licensed
attorney permission to appear, but I'm more than willing to let
the Appellate Division decide if you can be the first.  If you
like, we can call them now - I believe they're in session
today, and this certainly seems like a circumstance under which
an emergency ruling would be justified."

"That won't be necessary, _Victoria_," said the judge heavily.
"I find it reprehensible that you are here rather than in
prison, but since you appear to lack anything resembling shame,
you may carry on with your argument."

_I've had better opening lines_, Madoka reflected.  "Your
Honor, my client has been held in violation of the Pretrial
Detentions Act for more than a month.  Thus far, the Public
Prosecutor's office has not charged her with any crime; in
fact, until the Guardian brought the matter to the public's
attention, they didn't even acknowledge that she was being
held..."

"Counselor, it's hardly fair to require the Public Prosecutor
to observe all the niceties during a public emergency..."

"Your Honor," interrupted the prosecutor, "I think we can make
much of this argument moot.  The Government has decided to
charge the relator with sedition, petty treason, conspiracy
against public order and membership in a banned organization,
and we intend to arraign her as soon as practicable."

Madoka's face betrayed her surprise as she looked at the
prosecutor.  _Why is he making concessions when the judge is
obviously going to rule his way?  I'd have a good chance in the
Appellate Division, certainly, but why isn't he making me go
there?  Most prosecutors would._

_It must be the election._  Thanks to the Guardian, the public
knew who Letitia Ntimana was and that she had been tortured.
Evidently, the Public Prosecutor's office didn't want to risk
any more headlines on election morning.  Some of her more
militant acquaintances would withdraw the petition for exactly
this reason - the longer Letitia was in the hands of the
torturers at Nyeri prison, the greater the disadvantage to the
ruling coalition.  Victoria's ethics, though, would not allow
such things; Letitia was a client and a friend, and her life
and freedom were not things to be sacrificed in the name of an
abstraction.

On the other hand, Madoka _was_ willing to press her advantage.
"Your Honor, since the crimes with which my client is charged
were allegedly committed in Nairobi, I would ask that the
prosecutor consent to her being transferred to Nairobi Central
Prison and arraigned in the magistrate's court for Nairobi
district."

The prosecutor cut off the judge's comment.  "That seems
sensible to me, your Honor.  My office will make the necessary
arrangements within twenty-four hours."

_If he keeps his word_, Victoria thought, _Letitia's children
will be able to visit her tomorrow, and she'll be in a place
where I can keep an eye on her_.  Madoka's client wasn't free,
but she still felt as if she'd won.

***

[FN1] The FANTL, which is in many ways a more refined timeline
than our own, would never descend to anything as vulgar as
rubber chicken.

[FN2] The German occupation of Victoria during the Global War
was relatively brief, lasting from early 1943 to mid-1945.  It
was also a mild one, with the Germans leaving most domestic
political institutions in place (as the Nazis did in Denmark
in OTL).  After the Germans began to cut their losses in 1944,
they extracted trade concessions and basing rights from the
Victorians, held a supervised election and withdrew.  The
German occupation was more a bump in the road for the
Victorians than a major traumatic event, but the hardcore
Anglophiles' resentment of Patten for participating in the
occupation administration and the 1945 election was sufficient
to keep the Victoria United Party out of power from 1949 until
1961.  Patten, who is uncertain of his political base in the
wake of the Madoka trial, is reaching out to his traditional
enemies for support.

[FN3] Those who may be offended at the improper use of the term
"England" should blame Richard Patten, not the author.

[FN4] _This_ use of the forbidden name can be blamed on Henry
VIII, or maybe Clement VII.

[FN5] The expression predates the POD.

***

Jonathan I. Edelstein in Kew Gardens, NY

"It's been a lot of fun." -- in memoriam, Alison Brooks